Formerly homeless man teams up with St Albans charity which ‘saved his life’

Andy McGuinn from Emmaus Hertfordshire. Picture: Emmaus Hertfordshire

Andy McGuinn from Emmaus Hertfordshire. Picture: Emmaus Hertfordshire - Credit: Archant

A homeless man has teamed up with the St Albans charity that saved his life to launch a house clearance service.

Andy McGuinn, who lived for five months on the street before moving in to Emmaus Hertfordshire in August 2017, manages the charity’s house clearance service as a full-time paid member of staff.

St Albans-based charity Emmaus supports up to 39 formerly homeless people by giving them a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise, and an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild their lives.

Andy’s story is a picture of how suddenly homelessness can strike. Before finding himself on the streets, Andy had worked his whole life, including nine years in the army, and he had just opened a bakery.

But his life fell apart after the breakdown of his marriage. He said: “My wife and I had been married for 30 years and had eight children when she decided to leave me.”

“Our marriage had been going downhill for a long time and wasn’t the same after our six-month-old daughter passed away 15 years before.”

Andy found himself with no home and no income, and went on to spend five months on the streets.

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He said: “I think being ex-army and being homeless during the summer helped me to survive. I chose a quiet area under a bridge by a running stream to avoid people and so I could catch fish to eat. I didn’t have to get hand-outs or beg, which was something I didn’t want to do.”

But it was not until a run-in with the police and a four week stint in prison that Andy sought the help of Emmaus.

Andy initially worked in the charity’s second-hand shops before he was approached to help with house clearances, and in December was offered the full-time role of manager.

With full-time employment, Andy is on the Emmaus move-on scheme which allows residents to stay in the community for three months while saving for a deposit to move into their own place.

Residents are supported through this scheme and receive a “leaving fund” to help with moving expenses.

There are currently 29 Emmaus communities across the country, supporting 804 formally homeless people in the UK. The charity hopes to offer 1,000 places by 2020.

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