Church Army’s Lon­don life­line:

The Church of England - - FRONT PAGE -

“It’s strange to look back on a time in my life when I was home­less and des­per­ate. I didn’t know who I was or what I was do­ing in life and dam­aged a lot of re­la­tion­ships through poor life choices... I think you can never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of one con­ver­sa­tion… and how one night can trans­form your en­tire life.”

My name is Emma, I’m 26, and I live in Lon­don. When I was 16, I was go­ing through a dif­fi­cult time with my fam­ily, not re­ally through any fault of their own, but be­cause of how I per­ceived cer­tain things and the choices that I made.

I ended up run­ning away from home. I worked my way round stay­ing with dif­fer­ent friends un­til I ran out of op­tions and I ended up sleep­ing rough on the streets of Lon­don. I’m very glad that this ex­pe­ri­ence only lasted for about a week.

I was des­per­ate but re­source­ful – I sur­vived on 20p crack­ers, I would stay on tubes or 24-hour buses to keep warm. You can’t re­ally sleep when you are home­less, as you al­ways have to have your wits about you.

My mind was just rac­ing and I kept think­ing: “This is all my fault, I could end up on drugs, I could end up in prostitution…” Luck­ily, none of my fears were re­alised. I think God was re­ally look­ing af­ter me.

One day, I was stand­ing out­side a church, cry­ing. A woman came out and asked me what was wrong, so I told her. She de­cided to do quite a risky thing and said I could stay at her house overnight, and use her phone to call around and find a place to stay. I talked to the West­min­ster City Coun­cil and they told me that Church Army had an emer­gency women’s hos­tel called the Maryle­bone Project.

I had never heard of Church Army be­fore and I had no idea what they did, but I was re­ally des­per­ate and I jumped at the chance. The Maryle­bone Project’s staff mem­bers were at­ten­tive, car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate. Peo­ple who live on the street get judged so much and walked past all the time, so, to have some­one treat you like a hu­man be­ing, that’s re­ally im­por­tant.

I was a young, vul­ner­a­ble fe­male and they were very pro­tec­tive of me and made sure I didn’t have too many peo­ple around, they let me take my time. Even though this hap­pened 10 years ago, things like that re­ally stay with you.

A staff mem­ber took me up to my room and there’s some­thing re­ally spe­cial about be­ing told this is your room, this is your safe space – you can get a good night’s sleep, have a hot shower, no one is go­ing to dis­turb you. I re­mem­ber feel­ing over­flow­ing with grat­i­tude. I only stayed at Maryle­bone for one night, af­ter which I was re­ferred to a longer-term hos­tel.

I know it can sound re­ally clichéd to re­fer to it as “the night that changed my life” but it’s true: that one night was the cat­a­lyst that led to other op­por­tu­ni­ties. I am so grate­ful to God for or­gan­i­sa­tions like Church Army, which ex­ist to help peo­ple through re­ally dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. com­mu­nity-fo­cused church in cen­tral Lon­don, which helps the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing the home­less and the el­derly.

De­scrib­ing her faith, Emma said: “My first iden­tity is as a Chris­tian and all the other things that make up who I am and what I do flow out from this. Je­sus is at the cen­tre of my life and I be­lieve we are called to be Je­sus’ hands and feet on earth.”

To watch a video of Emma’s story, visit www.chur­charmy.org.uk/emma Emma cur­rently works for a

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