I have been a companion at Emmaus Preston for five years. I’m in in the right place. Before I was drinking and smoking weed. I was trying to keep my family together. Now I have got stability. I can have my grandson stopping over. I can have my daughters coming down to visit me and have tea. I can go out and have something to eat and spend time with my sisters, who live in Preston too.
Before I was drinking and smoking and working. My marriage fell apart. My family fell apart. I ended up on the streets, camping somewhere. Then I ended up at Emmaus Preston.
Emmaus is having someone to talk to. You’ve got support, and someone telling you not to do what you were doing before. I can turn around to [Head of Support] Karen and say this is wrong and this is right, and she sits down and listens. When I see my daughters, they listen. If I’ve got any problems, I visit my sisters and they will say, what’s the problem, you tell them the problem and they give you solutions. They won’t lie to you. Like I won’t lie to Karen. There’s no point in lying. You’re just lying to yourself. It took me years to figure that out.
I didn’t want to tell the truth at all because I was an alcoholic basically. Even though I didn’t know it at the time. I was just a bad lad. But you have to get over it and get on with it.
I was homeless for a couple of months. I was living in a tent and sleeping at my mate’s when he wasn’t there.
I was all over the place at the time. I was having a drink during the day. He would say he needed the house so I would go out on the streets and go drinking. I just got the tent and ended up going fishing and camping. I went to the pond, put up the tent and got some cans in.
I was in and out of work. I would get cash in hand jobs, like painting and decorating and doing up houses and gardens for £30 here and £100 and odd pound here. It was going on drink and cannabis. A bit of food. A bit of this, bit of that.
I didn’t feel. I didn’t feel at all. My trigger was having a few. I fell out with the ex-wife and that’s it. I started smoking too much. About an ounce a week, that was a lot.
At Emmaus Preston there is a set routine. Five days of work, where you could be working on the bikes, painting the house, be working in the shop, working in the warehouse or working on the van or cleaning the house. I’ve got loads of jobs. I get up at 8am. I get downstairs for 20 past, get coffee, have the morning meeting and go to work, and at lunchtime have something to eat, and enjoy the day while at work whilst I’m there. At 5pm I come back to the Emmaus house, have some more food, then do whatever I want to do. It’s your choice. If you want to go out and do whatever you can; this is my home.
Emmaus is really no different than living with 20 odd people on your street. It’s exactly the same, but you sit down and have food with them and play pool. You’re just living in one building.
It’s not always easy, living with so many people, but you have got your own room and you can take yourself off for the night. I go fishing, which takes you away for a bit. Emmaus pays for my fishing licence. I don’t mind being by myself. I love it. I can sit there, go to the pond and fish, go on a bike ride, whatever. I go to the docks every so often. I’ve just got a new bike so I took that on a 17 mile bike ride
It’s about getting out and relaxing. I went up to the Lakes with two people who used to live here and did some fishing. I’ve met a good group of people, who have been really supportive. We cycled into Lancaster from Preston, and I do big bike rides, like this for fitness and fun. I’ve got five bikes including one bike with my kids’ names on and my grandchildren’s names on. I took it apart in the workshop here where we do up and sell bikes. I sprayed it black and put white stickers with their names on. Emmaus paid for me to complete the City and Guilds in Cycle Maintenance and so I can work in our cycle workshops here.
One of my daughters said sort yourself out, and later when I actually did it she said I’m proud of you dad and. I did it mostly off my own back. I took one month off. I said to my mates I’m not drinking and, after that one month, I went to the pub and I had two pints and that’s it. A month later, same thing again. Now, I can leave it, I can take it, I’m not really bothered about it. I’ve seen people who have had to go into rehab over alcohol. It’s a hard drug. No matter what anyone says.
You are always learning. I’m 50-odd and still learning about life.
Emmaus has given me a bit and I have given them a bit. The bits and bits and bits make up a lot. Karen knows if she wants a room painted, I will paint it and I’ve painted our shops. I’ve given back to Emmaus. If anyone has a problem, I will talk to them about it. I don’t say you have to do this, you have to do that. I have learned a lot while I have been here. Before Emmaus, I didn’t bother about nobody. I didn’t even bother about my own life. Now I care for my life, my Emmaus companions and, most of all, my family and friends.
Keep your support coming. Homelessness is an ongoing thing. It is not something we’re going to sort out this year. By the time the people who come to Emmaus have sorted themselves out and got a job and a nice little place, the next person is going to come in. You’ve got the people on the streets that don’t want help. You’ve got the people on the streets that do want help. People that can’t cope. We all have problems. We are all human. But you’ve got to take that problem, sort it out.
All the money you spend at the shops goes back to Emmaus, which keeps us going, as we don’t get government or council grants or handouts. People are doing a sponsored walk for Emmaus Preston off their own backs, like my daughter and people who have been here as companions are now working here as paid staff because they want to give back. My daughter Makenziee has organised the walk. I’m very proud of her. I’m proud of both of my daughters. Of what they have become. If you can do something, do something for Emmaus, as whatever you do or give it won’t be wasted and I promise it will make a real difference to peoples lives.
If you would like to find out more about joining Emmaus Preston as a companion, please visit the Get Support section of our website here.