I came to Emmaus as a companion in March 2020, just before lockdown, and in April 2021 I got the job of Homelessness Outreach Worker.
When I first came to Emmaus I was working in the shop and did some van driving. There wasn’t any one person managing the kitchen, so I filled that role and was always here at the community building. I cooked for 18 to 19 people, always for 6 o’clock. Then the job with Emmaus Free Streets Outreach Service came up. There were 76 enquires, I applied, and got the job.
I know what it’s like to be homeless because I was there. I will shake people’s hands. I don’t care if they’re dirty. You can have all the qualifications in the world, but you haven’t had that experience of being homeless, you just don’t know.
I was at another homeless charity before. When I went, I stopped drinking and smoking on that day. The people who were part of this group were singing and standing in front of the church singing hallelujahs. They asked me to do a reading, so I went to bed and prayed. God gave me a nightmare about my past. I was crying and shaking in my dormitory that I shared with other men. I totally repented and my life changed from that day on.
So then, I didn’t lose my temper. If I saw someone doing something that would have made me angry, I say to myself God is still working on them. I found the Lord and changed my life. As an Emmaus homelessness outreach worker, I’m leaning back into the hole and pulling people out.
I joined Emmaus because it gave me a little bit more freedom. I’m probably the only person that reads the Bible in here. That’s my life now rather than drinking. They said a leopard never changes its spots, so I didn’t change the spots, I changed the leopard. The Adrian that used to drink is gone.
I was in the military for 22 years, in Germany, Belize, Cyprus and the Falklands in ’82. When I came out of the Air Force Regiment, I had everything, but I lost it all: my house, my car, my marriage. I was completely broken. I living in my car, with no tax, no insurance, no MOT. I was drinking vodka and red wine for breakfast at a shocking rate per day.
I had the lot, a 4×4 car, a house and a boat. I drank it all, every single bit of it. I look back now, and my wife was a saint. She stayed with me for 21 years and I wouldn’t have stayed with me for 21 days. My mum said, inside there is a nice man trying to get out. Now there is, but she’s not around to see him.
A typical day working for Free Streets involves visiting up to three towns a night, between 5pm and 2am and meeting people living on the streets. There can be a lot of rejection initially as some people don’t want to talk to you when you first meet them. For one, it depends how you approach them. We have to wear high visibility jackets for safety working alongside roads at night but ours are orange because we try not to look like the police. The first thing I do when meeting someone is get down to their level, I sit on the floor to talk to people if they are sat on the floor. It’s a case of building up trust over time.
The van has hot water, a microwave and a portable toilet with space to carry things people might need. I give them clothes, socks, toiletries and sleeping bags, and, if I’m making sandwiches. I make enough so if I need to give any away, I can. Emmaus funds the toiletries and socks or boxers, for example, and many schools have donated clothes.
The lows are when you go out and never see anyone. It’s not because they’re not there, it’s because they don’t want someone to find them. The highs of the job are getting help to people. It’s frustrating not hearing back from agencies that you’re trying to find support from on behalf of someone else. Some people even ask what you’re doing out there. But if you save one life, then that’s time well spent.
To get help to someone living on the streets or sleeping rough, please get in touch with Free Streets here or if you know of someone who needs help or need support yourself, please use our Support Us page for advice and guidance on joining our community.