Tony's story

Tony

I’ve met so many different people who have been homeless and everyone has a different story. When it happened to me it wasn’t because of alcohol or drugs. I worked in removals for 11 years but then one day I was unable to get to work and ended up losing my job. After a while I couldn’t pay my rent and so got kicked out of my accommodation.

With nowhere to go, I lived on the streets for three months. I joined five other rough sleepers living underneath a flyover in east London. I didn’t beg; I think my pride got in the way. Some people think that just because you’re begging you must just want the money for alcohol or drugs; they don’t realise that many night shelters and hostels cost £6 just to get in.

If you’re really hungry and you haven’t got money to buy food then you haven’t got many options. I occasionally used local food banks and we also survived by stealing food. I’m not proud of it, but I think that if I’d been on the streets for much longer I might have ended up breaking into homes or even mugging people. I’m a nice person and I wouldn’t want to do it but if you’re stretched to that point of utter desperation and need to eat then that’s the only way to survive.

My turning point came when a friend offered his sofa for me to sleep on for a couple of days. He helped me search the internet for ways I could get help; we found out about a local Emmaus and got in touch. Three days later I moved into Emmaus Greenwich. I stayed there for a year before moving to Emmaus Gloucester and a year later I joined the Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland community.

It takes time to get over your issues when you’ve been rough sleeping; the street can mess you up. It messed me up for a little while. I had seen things that I didn’t want to have seen.

Daily life at Emmaus helps you to settle down. I enjoy working in the Emmaus charity shops, especially sorting through bric-a-brac donations and then helping to sell those items.

The support staff at Emmaus often go above and beyond when it comes to helping companions with their issues. Many companions also step up and offer support, especially if they see someone going through experiences similar to their own.

I want to try and help change people’s view and get rid of the stigma of homelessness - just because you’ve been on the streets it doesn’t mean you’re a scumbag. It’s easy to end up homeless, especially if you’re on a low income – if something happens then you haven’t got the savings to stop you falling.

I feel very passionate about Emmaus and its history. Abbe Pierre was an amazing man and I really believe in his cause. We need to try our best to help people who can’t help themselves. In Gloucester I helped out with regular soup runs, feeding and bringing supplies to people who were on low income or living the streets.

I’ve always had a dream of being a writer and thanks to Emmaus I’ve joined a local writing group; it’s given me the confidence to starting writing my own fiction. I want to create my own anthology of short stories called Charity Shop Tales. I’m hoping to start a creative writing course soon, to further my skills.

Emmaus really is a lifesaver. It’s not for everybody but for those who want a second chance and the opportunity to help a charity that’s decent, then this is the place.