Breaking up with my partner is what led to me becoming homeless. I could no longer share a home with her and the council was meant to be finding me alternative accommodation. I was assaulted and ended up in hospital. When I came out I found that I had been evicted from the place I’d been sharing with her and the locks had been changed.
I registered myself as homeless, hoping the council would be able to re-house me. For a while I was sofa surfing with friends and staying with family - but neither of these offered a long-term solution to my problems.
As it was the summer, I decided to pitch a tent by a pond in Heaton Park, in a place that I’d been to as a child and knew was off the beaten track. I thought I’d be safer there, especially since I’d heard of homeless people’s tents being set alight. I hoped it would be a safer option and make me less vulnerable. At that point I thought it might only be a week or two before the council found me a place but I ended up living in the tent for 9 months.
I often spent my days on a bike, cycling to other local authorities in the hope they could help me find accommodation but I was constantly turned away. At first I was enjoying being in the open air and kept my spirits up because I thought it’s not going to be forever. But as time went by the depression started to drag me down.
As the year went on and the weather got worse I didn’t know if I would survive from one day to the next and sometimes I stayed with friends if the weather got really bad. But as I got more depressed I began to think why bother? I may as well give up.
Eventually, I confided to a friend that I was worried what I might do to myself. so she put me in touch with someone who referred me to Emmaus Salford. At the time, I was very skeptical and didn’t think I would stay long at Emmaus. I had been on my own so long, I wasn’t sure how I’d cope living with 14 other people in a community.
I arrived at Emmaus Salford on 22 December 2015 and spent a great Christmas there in the company of staff and several other companions. It was a Godsend.
Although I found it difficult to live with my family, I’ve had always been fond of my dad and used to talk to him regularly, even when I was homeless. Sadly, he died shortly after I came to Emmaus and if it hadn’t been for the support of other companions I don’t know how I would have kept my head on my shoulders. Without them to talk to, I would have gone stir crazy with grief.
Now, after being in the community for a while, I enjoy the company of other people and feel I have made lifelong friends with some of the other companions. I’ve done lots of different jobs in the community and really love going out on the vans collecting and delivering furniture and meeting customers. However, my real niche is outside, growing vegetables and fruit in the kitchen garden, tending the chickens and setting up the petting zoo. I built the chicken coop and the community has managed to get funding for a greenhouse.
I don’t quite grow enough produce to feed the community day on day, but I’m getting there. It’s a great satisfaction, growing food for my fellow companions to eat. I’ve had training in animal husbandry so I know how to look after the community’s chickens.
I also enjoy the solidarity work we do in the local community, including painting and decorating for elderly people who can’t manage on their own and landscaping an overgrown garden that a primary school teacher is now using to teach children how to grow things. Solidarity work gives me the feeling that I’m helping other people in need and therefore giving something back.
Despite thinking I wouldn’t stay long at Emmaus, I have no immediate plans to leave, I’m just going with the flow and waiting to see how things turn out. I’ve met a lovely lady who lives in the area and who knows where that might lead. I don’t think I would have had the confidence even to speak to her if it hadn’t been for Emmaus. It’s restored my faith in humanity.
Sometimes I speak to people who are homeless in and around Manchester and tell them about Emmaus but I appreciate that, like me, they have to choose if and when it’s right for them to come here. But knowing what I know now I wish I’d known about Emmaus sooner. I was going out of my mind. I would have come earlier.