Cambridge man swaps the streets for own home thanks to Wintercomfort charity

PUBLISHED: 16:30 09 December 2017 | UPDATED: 00:21 10 December 2017

Stuart enjoying being off the street with a place to call home in Ditton Fields, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Stuart enjoying being off the street with a place to call home in Ditton Fields, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Stuart Johnson admits he would have died had he carried on living on the streets

A Cambridge man who spent 11 years living on the streets of the city has turned his life around thanks to the help of local charity Wintercomfort.

Stuart Johnson lived under a bridge in the city and shared his sleeping bag with rats until he was given the chance to rebuild his life with a house he now calls home.

One year after moving into the property in Cambridge, Mr Johnson is urging the residents of the city, along with businesses, to donate to the Wintercomfort Christmas appeal.

Mr Johnson said: “Wintercomfort was a godsend when I was on the streets. I could get out of the cold and get a breakfast. I could get a shower, do my laundry and have somewhere to go that was warm and dry. They also help you with filling in forms and all that stuff. I was lucky I never got into trouble while I was on the streets and people have been so generous to me with sofas, pots and pans, carpets etc.

“Wintercomfort do a great job and people should try and donate what they can.”

Mr Johnson arrived in Cambridge in 1989 but problems with a relationship and a love affair with drink, mainly Stella, put him on a downward spiral which took him more than a decade to reverse.

He added: “From 2005 I was on the streets and drinking a lot. If I had carried on I would have ended up dead. I also suffer with a chronic lung problem. The doctors were concerned about my chest and said I had the lungs of a 70-year-old man, I’m only 51. I really appreciate where I am now and I look back and wonder how on earth I survived sleeping on the streets.”

After spells in and out of jail for petty misdemeanours, Mr Johnson wants to demonstrate to others that getting off the streets for good is not a pipe dream. It’s all a far cry from the nights when rats used to join him in his sleeping bag.

He added: “One night, I was just dozing off when one of them shot out of my bag and over my shoulder.

“I’ve been very lucky and I don’t want to let anyone down by being a div and getting drunk. I have got a nice place, it is home and I am made up with it all.”

A donation of £14 will buy a cooked breakfast for a rough sleeper for a week; £40 will pay for laundry powder for a month while £100 will provide professional job skills training for a day.

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