“I was working in a warehouse in Northamptonshire, then I lost my job and everything went downhill from there.
Everything I had, I lost. When everything was gone, I decided there was no point staying in that area, so I left for Dover. I always wanted to be near the sea and I was thinking I might have a better chance of sorting my life out there.
I was on the street in Dover for about six months, based up on a hill in an abandoned WWII machine gun pillbox. It wasn’t far from Archcliffe Fort, where Emmaus Dover is based. I cleaned it all out, fitted myself a shower and grew my own vegetables. It was okay. Obviously, here in the community it’s better, because you’re safe and you can live a dignified life.
I was trying to be hidden, that’s why I went up to the hill. I’ve seen people around Dover sleeping on the shop doorsteps, but I couldn’t do that because I was trying to keep my dignity somehow. You meet different people when you are homeless – some are nice, some are not so nice. I was surprised by the generosity of this town. You have soup kitchens, food banks and churches doing all different things to help. It’s quite impressive.
But I actually had to relocate from my campsite on the hill, because someone set it on fire and burnt it all down. You get people like that. I was at the soup kitchen in Dover when I saw the smoke from a distance. I was just thinking, someone is having a bonfire, but they weren’t. It was my campsite. They destroyed my home. I took whatever I could save from the fire and moved to another hill and set up there.
For me, the biggest problem about being homeless is that you don’t really get to socialise with other people. And if you’re on your own, you start thinking about things. I tried all the time to keep myself busy, so I could put the bad things to the back of my mind. That was probably the worst thing for me, that I had a lot of time and nothing to do with it. Now, at Emmaus, I have a safe place to stay and people to talk to.
I found out about Emmaus at Dover Outreach Centre. They actually told my friend to come here, and he’s still here now. After two months or so I went to visit him, and that’s how it all started. I’ve been living in the Emmaus Dover community for three months now and I like it here. Emmaus helps you rebuild your life and gives you a purpose. We are working for a good cause, to end homelessness. It’s a good place to be.
My days usually start with a community meeting, where it will be announced who’s working where. We all do various things; some people drive the vans and some people work in the warehouse or shops. I like to be on the vans, then I get to meet different people, but generally I’m just happy doing whatever I’m asked to do.
We have time for socialising, too. You can play pool or go out to museums together and stuff like that. We’re like a family; if anyone has any issues with anything, there is support here for everyone. I’m really thankful that Emmaus took me in when I was on the street, when I had nothing. I could still be there now if it wasn’t for them.”