Jim Cooper at the Emmaus shop in Whitefriargate, Hull city centre. Picture: Neil Holmes Photography
Jim Cooper at the Emmaus Emporium in Whitefriargate, Hull city centre. Picture: Neil Holmes Photography

How former rough sleeper Jim escaped homelessness in Hull

Thousands of people sleep rough on UK streets every night, yet most people think they could never become homeless.

Jim Cooper was a dad with a partner and regular work. But after a family breakdown, he found himself sleeping under a bush – and close to death.

Now Jim has found the help he needed to escape homelessness within the community at Emmaus Hull and East Riding in Lockwood Street.

The charity helps Jim and many other people – who Emmaus refers to as companions – to find a way back into society by providing accommodation, food, training and work in its warehouse, furniture superstore in Lockwood Street and charity shops in Whitefriargate, Newland Avenue and Hessle Road.

Jim said: “I came to Emmaus Hull in August 2018. I’d had a crisis in my life – a family breakdown. I’d been full-time sleeping rough since March of that year.

“I was sleeping under a bush on Beverley Westwood with a dust sheet wrapped around me. I learnt in time how to keep warm and dry. Nobody ever knew I was there. I used to get up early so nobody would see me. I also spent time sleeping rough in the Dales.

“When I got a chest infection, I had to see a doctor to get antibiotics. The GP saw the mosquito bites all over me – they were that big and festering, they were like bullet holes – and he said, ‘you’re sleeping rough’. He said if I hadn’t gone in when I did, I’d be dead. He sent me to a charity called Cherry Tree, which sent me to Emmaus.

The Emmaus Emporium in Whitefriargate. Picture: Neil Holmes Photography

The Emmaus Emporium in Whitefriargate. Picture: Neil Holmes Photography

“Emmaus arranged for a companion to meet me. When I arrived at Lockwood Street, I was sent straight into the canteen where the staff said ‘It’s dinnertime, eat as much as you want’ and then showed me to a room. It was lovely to have my own room.

“Before I was homeless, I’d been living with my partner, her children and our two children, who were two and five then. I have five children, who are now aged from three to 33, and the hardest thing about this is being away from my kids. In the past, I’ve looked after my children, cared for my mum and dad and worked in caravan skinning, tinning and roofing, painting and decorating and carpet-fitting. But when I walked out, I lost all my things, including my ID. Emmaus has helped me to get my birth certificate and a bank account.

“It is like a family here at Emmaus, you all eat together. If people are feeling anxious they come to talk to me and that makes me feel good because it makes me feel like a dad again.”

“We are all taught new skills. I’ve learnt how to use computers and write a CV, upcycle things as well as anger management, and living skills where you learn about things like rental agreements, shopping, how to manage your bill money.

“I was given work in the warehouse at first, then I went into logistics, taking calls, arranging deliveries, interacting with customers, and then working in retail on the shop floor selling items and taking donations. I’ve now started the process of applying for my own flat and I’m applying for jobs.

“I want to get back into society again, for my kids. The most important thing for me is to get my kids back in my life, once I’ve got a base of my own.”

For more details, call 01482 223722 or email [email protected]

The Canary and the Crow will be previewed in Hull ahead of its show in Edinburgh.