A father-of-three from Hastings has channelled his own personal struggles to help tackle the problem of homelessness in the area.
James Robinson, 36, of Battle Road, suffered a mental breakdown two years ago which he said opened his eyes to ‘the problem surrounding homelessness in this country’.
Five months ago, he set up Surviving the Streets UK – a group that provides homeless people with warm food, clothing, sleeping bags and a general conversation.
The group, run solely by volunteers, is currently awaiting registration to be classed as a charity.
On Wednesday, December 13, James spent the night on the streets with another homeless man and spoke to the Observer about his experience. He said: “I really feel for the people on the streets these days.
“People are basically told to ignore homeless people or view them as people who have failed in life.
“During my night on the street, people just viewed me as any other homeless person – looking at me as a drug dealer or an alcoholic. They had little thought that I might be just like them.
“They just thought I was your average person living on the street.”
The aim of the night, according to James, was to raise awareness of the issue surrounding homelessness, particularly in Hastings.
He spent the night alongside another homeless man and raised £115 which he has put towards purchasing a small van to store clothes and sleeping bags.
He added: “I set up the group just five months ago and it has already taken off massively.
“Because of the positive reaction, I now need somewhere to store the clothes and food and the van will be used to transport these items around.
“As it is at the moment, I have no storage or anything because it has grown so quickly.
“I have got a long way to go but things are building up nicely.
“I am hoping Surviving the Streets UK will become a registered charity by the end of January once all the paperwork has been completed and I have shown everything is above board.”
Born and brought up in Hastings, James – who has three young daughters – also spent a period of time living on the streets which he said changed his outlook on life.
He added: “Living through homelessness and an emotional breakdown changed me for the better.
“I am no longer the person I was and I am suddenly much more aware of the problems around me. It is almost as though my experiences have made everything clearer, like I got a bang on the head which made me see better.
“Now I am just trying to channel my experiences into helping others by offering them advice and support.”
“I could not have done this with out my brother Peter Robinson and passion from the team as well.”
As a computer programmer, James has used his expertise to build a website and manage the social media for his soon-to-be charity.
If you would like to help support James in his fight against homelessness, then you can make a donation by visiting his website here.