I was born and brought up in Belfast but joined the army and moved to England. I was in the army for a long time and settled into life in the UK. I was married and after the army I had a great job working in a warehouse.
Unfortunately I lost my job and then three weeks later, out of the blue, my other half lost her job. It wasn’t bad at the start because we had savings but the pressure of us both in that situation soon became too much. We were arguing day after day and eventually our relationship fell apart.
With no place to go, I turned to my local council for help but there was nothing. I came to nearby Leeds thinking big city, more help. I slept rough for a few weeks at Leeds train station and one of the guys I met there told me about Emmaus.
Luckily the day I arrived at Emmaus Leeds there was a room available. I was in Emmaus Leeds for just over two years and I was a Community Assistant (CA) for a year and a half of that. I did all sorts of work. I did all the inductions for new starters, I inputted the companion allowances on the computer, I ran the market stalls and I ran the shop; including cashing up at the end of the day. I did whatever I was asked to do and tried to do it to the best of my abilities.
With being army trained, I was a medic, as every soldier is, but my certificates had since run out. At Emmaus I was able to do my first aid courses again with St John’s Ambulance. Other courses I did included a bike maintenance course and a brain injuries course which I found fascinating. With being a CA it was essential that I completed training and my certificates were up to date.
If you ask me what I enjoyed most about Emmaus I’d have to say the work. It was the work that kept me going – something to get up for every morning. When I first arrived, I’d just split up with my wife and wasn’t in a good place at all. To be able to get up, throw myself at work and not watch TV all day long, was just what I needed. That’s what I enjoyed the most.
Don’t get me wrong, being part of Emmaus, friendship is important too and a great support. Hand on heart, the work aspect though was most important to me – something to get me teeth into each day.
Whilst I was staying at Emmaus I met a lady, our relationship developed and we took things further. We eventually moved in together into the flat I am living in now. It wasn’t a planned decision to leave Emmaus, it just happened.
Soon after moving out of Emmaus I was successful in applying for a job at a large supermarket chain. I help with their stock management and warehousing operations. I’ve been doing this now for just over two years. Unfortunately my plans changed a bit since moving out of Emmaus Leeds because my partner died of terminal cancer at the start of 2016.
I’ve met a lot of good friends at work and I have to admit, work was very supportive of me when my partner got diagnosed. They went above and beyond and I was really touched as I had only been there for a year. They say in times like this you find out who your true friends are and I found out big time.
In her final stages my other half spent time in St Gemma’s Hospice and I now volunteer an afternoon down there as often as I can. St Gemma’s were brilliant with my partner and I thought I’d try and give something back to them.
The past year has been a steep learning curve – having to deal with lots of things including bills and housing. My immediate plans are to do my flat up in-between work. I keep in touch with my friends and staff at Emmaus Leeds and it’s nice to come in and see some of the old faces.
My message to customers and supporters of Emmaus is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. If you’re not sure, ask. Go in, find out more and talk to the companions.