Former homeless man fights for the vulnerable

A former homeless man who admits he lost the will to live during his days on the streets is setting up a charity to help people find a home.

Greater Norwich Street Voice was set up by Donald Timson, 38, to represent rough sleepers, adults at risk of homelessness and people accessing supported housing.

The small charity works to address issues and inequalities which prevent people from progressing in their housing, employment and health needs.

Mr Timson said: 'I hit rock-bottom last Christmas when, with no family, no cards, and no presents, I had lost the will to live.

'Because I had just returned to the UK I was not entitled to any benefits. I felt I was left in limbo and my self-confidence was rock-bottom. Money soon ran out and I was jobless, homeless and penniless.

'I was knocking around hostels and B&Bs in Norwich, until someone suggested that I kept myself busy by doing voluntary work.

'I approached the city council and they housed him in temporary/emergency with St Martin's Housing Trust, and then someone suggested I joined the council's Leap (Learning, Employment and Accommodation Project).

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'Over the past few months I have been listening closely to the views of homeless people in Norwich and now I have set out to find creative solutions to gaps in current service providers. It is not about making money any more.'

Mr Timson works from his home in Regina Road, south of the city centre, but monthly meetings of the charity are held at Under-1-Roof, a St Martin's Housing Trust initiative in Westwick Street, Norwich.

He added: 'My vision is to change the perception of homeless people and ensure everyone in Greater Norwich has a roof over their head and feels safe.

'Some people resent me because I come from a middle-class background, but my story just goes to prove that homelessness can happen to anyone.

'Our aim is to promote activities, opportunities and events which enable people to contribute to the community using their experience, skills, creativity, knowledge and wisdom.'

He plans to register the charity in the future, but it is currenlty not required to do so.

Born in Norwich, Mr Timson studied at Notre Dame High School and graduated with a degree in hotel management in 1998.

He moved to Spain in 2000 where he was a successful letting agent for nine years.

While working there he fell in love with an English woman and came home in August 2009 to start a family.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned and the relationship broke down shortly after arrival, leaving him heartbroken and suffering from chronic depression.

The charity is looking for volunteers, supporters, fundraisers and a venue in Norwich city centre to open a community cafe. For more information email or visit