I was born in Small Heath, Birmingham in the late 60’s to two parents one who was 17 and the other 18. I was just six months old when me and my older brother were abandoned. We had been neglected by our parents and left alone for four days. After being alerted by neighbours, the police arrived at the house, but I was in a bad way. I had to go straight to hospital as I had septicaemia and meningitis. I went to a foster family until the age of thirteen, luckily me and my brother were kept together. These were quite settled years for us, but things were still quite tough for us and my brother even more so.

Then things changed when our fosterers passed away within quick succession of one another. We went into mainstream care and that’s when the substance misuse started to happen. At age thirteen, I started sniffing glue. This then led on to other drugs such as weed. Abuse and punishment was the norm back then and I was constantly told ‘You will never amount to anything’. I guess that stayed with me for a long time. It was then that me and my brother were separated when he had to go to a different facility.

A few years later, aged sixteen I started something called the Youth Opportunity Programme. After doing that for a year, I got a City & Guilds in Hospitality and Catering. That was the first point in my life I thought I could achieve something. Aged seventeen and a half and it was my time to leave my current care home. I remember them giving me £160 and dropping me to a hostel in Birmingham. That was the end of my time in care. I was glad, but at the same time that was all I knew. I was institutionalised with low skills and low self-esteem.

I was still young and from then on, I started being involved in the football scene; I’m a big Birmingham City fan. However, this was when I started to get in trouble with the police. I had turned to alcohol because I had been messed up by life. It was my escapism…. I was drowning my sorrows, whatever way you want to put it.

There was an ongoing court case and I didn’t attend. Instead, I went on the run in Wales and met up with my brother and his Welsh girlfriend. I stayed in Wales for six weeks avoiding the police until I was arrested at Dover Port when I was attempting to join the Foreign Legion. I was remanded in custody for 6 weeks until I was sentenced to four months in prison. Four months down the line, I was released and I headed back to Wales. I was working in different hotels and restaurants doing chef work. But that’s when I was introduced to amphetamines. I have an addictive personality and again this was just escapism for me. I kept getting into different relationships but these kept failing due to my own insecurities and me blaming others for my actions. I now realise this is down to my past and my childhood I guess.

Despite all of this, my chef work continued and I became a freelance chef working across the country for around 10 years. But freelance cheffing meant more money. I was earning more money than ever and I swapped speed for Cocaine. I was in a circle and a lifestyle of drinking and drugs. In 2004 my freelance chef work took me to Swindon where I got a short term contract, that’s when I met the mother of my kids. We had three children together, but my first daughter past away. The relationship lasted fourteen years. We looked happy but it was a toxic relationship. We were both abusing Cocaine.

By 2017 the relationship had deteriorated drastically. One day I came home from work and no one was there, my partner and children had gone to stay else wear. I was then arrested and bailed back to Bridgend. I got Community Service, but I breached the order. I got 10 months in prison. I stopped taking Cocaine on the 23rd of July 2017; I knew I had to make a lifestyle change. I’ve been clean ever since.

I’d planned to go back to my partner when I was released from prison, but the relationship ended. I had no plan B. I was released from prison in September 2018 and if it hadn’t been for my friends I would have ended up homeless. I had gained a number of qualifications in prison including a CSCS card for labouring. Even though I was staying with friends, I was still able to work. I worked up until December of that year, until I got laid off work. I had no knowledge of the benefit system, as I hadn’t claimed in 20 years. I had to wait two months for my Universal Credit payment so I had no money until then. I was sofa surfing with friends and using the Zone in Bridgend in the daytime. I was also volunteering with Compassion Church who do a lot for the homeless in Bridgend.

But I still didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t continue staying with friends, this wasn’t what I wanted. Then one day whilst I was in the Zone I heard someone mention Emmaus. I asked what Emmaus was and they gave me a leaflet. I took the leaflet back with me that night and did some research about the charity and the ethos. I read all about how Emmaus was set up by Abbé Pierre and I thought ‘That’s what I need, that’s my plan B’.

I downloaded the referral form from the Emmaus South Wales website, filled it in and posted it to the Community Nant Lais. I also rang up and spoke to one of the Support Workers and explained my situation and my want to join the Community. The Community Manager Lacey came and met me the same week for an assessment. After the assessment, she said I had been accepted and I could move in the same day!

 I moved into Emmaus in February 2019. I felt relieved because I finally had some stability and I knew what to expect because I had done the research. What I had found was a caring home and I settled in very quickly. I found support from staff that empowered me and instilled self-belief into me, something I hadn’t had in a long time.

Since becoming a Companion at Emmaus South Wales, they have given me a lot, but I have also given a lot back. I have carried out various roles within the social enterprise; I work on the van doing deliveries and collections. I also work in the shops on the till and I’ve also learnt how to sell in the shops. It has brought out skills in me I didn’t know I had thanks to the staff believing in me and empowering me. They’ve now given me the opportunity for Shop Management training which is something I’m looking forward to. I have also been on two interview panels for recruiting new staff members and I also sit on the Companion Steering Group. I’ve started becoming involved in setting up Community projects and carrying out acts of solidarity.

I now go to see a councillor to help me to deal with past traumas that caused a lot of the self-destruction in my life. It’s helped me to be confident about my future, whereas most of my life it’s been negative.

I’ve set myself a five year plan, but in the short term I plan on staying with Emmaus developing myself further until I’m ready to move on to my own accommodation. I’m happy in the knowledge that Emmaus doesn’t pressure you into leaving, you move on when you are ready. I fully believe in the ethos of Emmaus of equality and helping others in need.

I would recommend Emmaus to anyone who is ready to take that next step in their lives, as it gives you the platform and ability to do so. The Emmaus Community is more than a community. It’s a family and this is the best move I’ve ever made.