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Formerly homeless man helps to launch affordable house clearance service for charity that helped him

Andy McGuinn, former Emmaus resident and House Clearance Manager

Local charity Emmaus Hertfordshire has launched an affordable house clearance service with a difference as all proceeds will be used to support people who have experienced homelessness.

The charity now offers a full and partial house clearance service, covering the county of Hertfordshire and within a 20-mile radius of Barnet. Emmaus aims to reuse much of what it collects, saving items from landfill whilst raising money to sustain its community home in St Albans which supports 39 people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion.

Andy McGuinn has lived at Emmaus Hertfordshire since August 2017 following the breakdown of his marriage and five months on the street. With the support of the charity, Andy now manages the house clearance service as a full-time paid member of staff:

“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.”

Before becoming homeless, Andy had worked his whole life: “I spent nine years in the army before eight years with British Rail, five years running my own cleaning company, and then opening a bakery. When I had to leave my home, I found it difficult to manage the bakery and found myself with no home and no income.”

Andy went on to spend five months on the streets: “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 that I didn’t want to do.”

A run-in with police meant Andy went to prison for four weeks before finding Emmaus: “When it was time for me to be released, my probation officer suggested Emmaus, which I had never heard of, and began calling round different communities before finding a space at Emmaus Hertfordshire.”

Emmaus Hertfordshire offers people who have experienced homelessness with a place to live for as long as they need in a communal setting. At first, Andy found this type of living difficult: “I’ve always had my own money, my own place, and didn’t have to share it with anyone apart from family. I did find it difficult to begin with, but I quickly came to love and get on well with everyone in the community. Hearing their stories made me realise that I’ve had an easy life compared to some of them.”

Andy worked in the charity’s second-hand shops before helping with house clearances: “The office team approached me to help with house clearances and said that they were planning on making it a full-time job. After a few weeks I was offered the role and started in December 2018 as paid staff. I’m delighted to be working at the same charity that has helped me so much. A great thing about the role too is that any funds made through the house clearance service goes directly back to supporting the 39 formerly homeless people currently at Emmaus.”

Andy now manages the Emmaus Hertfordshire house clearance service: “I have a great crew who I train up to work with me on house clearances. We’re already very busy as our service is a lot cheaper than other local companies, and some days can be hard work, especially if the house needs clearing in one day.”

With full-time employment, Andy is now 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” that has been accrued throughout their stay to help with moving expenses.

For more information about the Emmaus Hertfordshire house clearance service, or to discuss your needs and receive a competitive quote, please call the House Clearance Manager, Andy, on 07557035214.

To find out more about Emmaus Hertfordshire, please visit: www.emmaus.org.uk/hertfordshire.

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