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I wanted to help the homeless so I took one of them in – now we’re great friends


“I DECIDED to take in a homeless person as I’ve found it harder and harder to ignore rough sleepers in the parks and in the streets. I’ve never seen so many and I found it hard to believe they could “all” be alcoholics, druggies or mentally ill.”

That was the inspiration behind Janine Naunton’s decision to take in Matt Timmis to live in her home in Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton.

Janine, 49, said: “I contacted David Freeley at Sussex Homeless Support. I told him my terms and what I had to offer. David asked around to find the right match and Matt was nominated by three different people.

“I had no fears about it. I’m a pretty good judge of character but my dogs are better.

“I decided if my dogs didn’t like the person chosen, my answer would be no.

“There were a few people who tried to talk me out of it asking: “What if I was date raped?” or “What if I was robbed?”

“I wasn’t worried, because I believe that 99 per cent of people are good and just need a chance.

“I liked Matt immediately. He was a little shy but soon settled in.

“He’s taught me so much about the realities of being homeless and how hard it is out there.

“Once he is back on his feet and ready to move on I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

Matt Timmis’s story is a sad one.

The 42 year-old from Kidderminster said: “I became homeless five years ago after the breakdown of a bad relationship.

“My partner and I were both alcoholics. Towards the end my ex turned abusive. One night I left, just wearing my shorts and a t-shirt.

“I had nowhere to go. Although I’d been holding down a job, I was living for the drink, a bottle of vodka for breakfast and more hidden in my man bag.

“Drinking comes with lying. After years of trying to help me, my family finally gave up.

“My parents didn’t drink and so couldn’t understand how it could have such a hold on me.

“They were not alone. My drinking had given me a bad reputation. I was known as a drunk in my village.

“I spent my first night as a homeless man behind a broken tombstone in a graveyard.

“I had no coat, nowhere to go and no money for drink. I’ve never felt as ill or suicidal in my life.

“Time alone gives you time to think. I remembered the last words my mother said to me before she passed away.

“She told me to find an old boyfriend of mine who she believed I’d always loved. I found out he was living was Brighton and so 13 years after our split, I got my things together and started walking.

“Seven days later I arrived in St James’s Street hoping I might bump into him. I haven’t yet.

“Since arriving, I’ve accessed many of the homeless charities, one being the street kitchen on a Sunday at the clock tower, North Street, where I met Jim Deans and David Freeley, who introduced me to Janine.

“Throughout my homeless journey I’ve encountered the best and worst that lives inside people.

“From the 90-year-old man who sat next to me when everyone else was too scared of my black eyes and split lips listened to my story and bought me a Burger King and gave me his bible to keep me safe, to the five teenage boys who urinated on me before beating me so badly on New Year’s Eve 2016 I ended up in hospital.

“I’ve never met anyone like Janine though.

“David took me round to meet her and have a chat and I never left.

“She made me tea and toast and we talked and talked.

“After a couple of hours she said: “Well Matt, do you want to pitch your tent in Queens Park tonight or sleep in my bedroom upstairs?”

I said: “Upstairs please” and that was that. She sent me up to have a shower and then gave me her giant fluffy pink dressing gown to wear.

“It didn’t take long for people to hear about me moving in with Janine, and since then I have been totally overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

“On Christmas Eve the neighbours delivered a hamper of food and clothing. It’s been an incredible experience.

“Being given a roof over my head has given my respite from the streets and the stability needed to look forward to the future in a positive way. I walk Janine’s dogs for her and help out at the charities who helped me.”

Source: The Argus