Emmaus has been a big part of my life and I have got involved in the movement as much as I can. After being a companion at Emmaus Mossley, I became a staff member at two Emmaus communities to help others affected by homelessness.
For many years I was your typical happily married man. I had three kids, a house and my own business doing building and landscaping work. I even employed six lads to work with me. Then my business went bust and I had to sell my house to pay off debts. My marriage was already rocky and losing the house was the final straw. My wife and I split and went our separate ways.
I started sofa surfing, doing bits of work whenever I could to support myself. I did everything possible not to have to sign on, as I didn’t want to depend on benefits. But I got involved in drink and drugs, and my life went into a downward spiral.
I stayed in hostels in Rochdale and managed to get into a rehab programme, but later relapsed. It was at that stage that I decided I needed a complete change of scene and I moved to York. In York, I found a bedsit to live in, but I left as it was too easy to get access to drugs there. I ended up moving into a tent in the city centre. It might sound strange, but at that stage, living in a tent was a better option for me.
I worked at every possible opportunity, washing cars, selling the Big Issue, selling the local paper and even managed to get work at the racecourse. This was all while living in my tent, which I stayed in for about a year. I even had Christmas dinner in that tent, provided by the Salvation Army. But I was lucky, others spent Christmas on cardboard boxes, at least I had a roof over my head.
I used to spend time at a hostel during the day and it was them that put me in touch with Emmaus, where I soon gained an interview with the community leader at Emmaus Mossley. I loved Emmaus instantly. It gave me a home, stability and a sense of purpose. I initially planned to stay six months, then move on, but I became involved in the community and wanted to stay. I liked that I could get up in the morning and have a sense of purpose, then go to bed knowing I’d achieved something good. It’s a no brainer.
As a companion I particularly liked getting involved in the solidarity work. I’ve always done work for charity, and I like the idea of giving something back. On four different occasions I went to the Paris Salon, where all Emmaus communities across Europe come together in a huge sale to raise money for Emmaus International. I’ve also visited communities in Germany and Amsterdam to see how Emmaus works in other parts of the world.
In 2016 I had invested 14 years of my life to Emmaus and I still had a lot more to offer. For some time I’d been looking at moving into a staff role and towards the end of that year, I successfully applied to become the new Support Worker at Emmaus Merseyside.
At Emmaus Merseyside, I worked each day supporting others and helping them on their journey out of homelessness. It was challenging but overall, it was a fantastic experience because I learned something new every day.
In 2019, I moved to Emmaus Burnley as a van driver where I was able to share my Emmaus journey with companions from my cab. I helped many people find a sense of purpose when the Emmaus Department Store closed due to lockdown by leading projects within our community. This experience helped me take on the staff role of support worker at Emmaus Burnley in 2020. I’m now working towards creating a positive outcome for all companions. The most rewarding part of working with Emmaus has been the opportunity to serve a good purpose.
I remember reading a quote once from Abbé Pierre that said: ‘many small drips a river make, many small rivers an ocean makes’. I wake up each morning looking forward to work, and I go to bed with knowing I’ve made a difference to someone’s life, which is an incredible feeling.
If I had my way, there’d be an Emmaus in every town in the country. It’s invaluable.