I used to work in construction and warehousing for many years and things were going really well. I had my own flat and I treated myself to occasional nice holidays. Then life started going downhill, with less work available and the bills started to mount up.
My relationship broke down and I lost my home. It was just a snowball that kept on rolling and eventually I got on the wrong side of the law. I was in prison and then ended up living on the streets for two and a half years before I found Emmaus Oxford.
When I was on the streets there were things I didn’t want to do, but I had to swallow my pride and improvise. It’s not easy. When you’re living on the streets you feel like you have the whole world on your shoulders. I just had to take it one day at a time but there were many rough moments. I often made my own places to sleep, from what I could find. I once made a bed out of wooden pallets. It was better to sleep on a metre of wood than directly on the ground; it kept the worst of the cold out, and I would find things to cover the top to keep out most of the rain.
I started to use a local day centre. With their help, I began to think I might be able to find a way out of my situation, but I didn’t really know where to turn. I ended up getting into trouble again, which landed me a few more months in prison. When I got out, my probation officer suggested I apply to join the Emmaus Oxford community, to try and start my life over. I had an interview and moved in the following week.
I’ve been at Emmaus Oxford for over two years now. It was hard at the beginning because I still had local friends and acquaintances from my old life, so I had to start the process of keeping away from them, for my own safety and that of my new friends here.
Emmaus has given me a roof over my head and three meals a day; I’ve got that sense of stability I really needed.
I enjoy working in the store and engaging with customers, as well as on the vans to help deliver the furniture they’ve bought.
I also volunteer to help with the Emmaus Oxford weekly solidarity, where we offer food and essential supplies to local rough sleepers. My knowledge of Oxford from my old life is actually put to good use. I know where to go and who people are. It does feel good to be able to help people out by handing them some camping equipment, for example, because I’ve been there myself and know how much it’ll mean to them.
Living in a community with others is sometimes challenging, but you grin and bear it when someone seems to be acting unreasonably. You learn to see past it because there is always a reason why they are having a bad day. They might be feeling down and just need a little patience and support.
Emmaus Oxford is helping me start to think about my future. I’ve got the chance to learn to drive, and I’ve been focusing on building up my concentration levels. Ultimately the Support Team are helping me improve my work prospects and think about the type of work I want to do. I’m not getting any younger, so I don’t want to go back to a building site. I’d like to work on improving my IT skills. I’ve got my certificate in customer care and now I’m working towards level two.
I’m proud to be part of Emmaus and I am very happy to wear the logo on my clothes. Being part of an Emmaus community is being part of a bigger thing, which is doing so much good.
I’ve had my ups and downs, but now I think my life’s on the up, thanks to Emmaus.