Homeless man reveals how his life has been transformed

A charity in Chester has revealed how David Simons has turned his life around and landed a job, right, a year after he received a free coffee and sandwich from its Chester branch, left
  • David Simons, 31, was 'struggling on the streets of Chester' a year ago
  • A stranger paid for him to have a coffee and sandwich at a charity shop 
  • Since then he has worked with the charity - SHARE - to turn his life around
  • Staff at the charity revealed he had landed a job after an interview last week 

One year ago he was living on the streets and begging for food and cash.

But now a former homeless man David Simons has undergone a dramatic transformation in the space of just 12 months – and owes it all to a free coffee and sandwich.

Charity Supporting Homeless Assisting Refugees Everywhere (SHARE) revealed Mr Simons came into its Chester branch a year ago to claim a coffee that a complete stranger had given him the cash for, as well as the sandwich, which was donated by a local Tesco.

He returned to the shop last week 'suited and booted' ahead of his first job interview in 10 years, and has now landed employment at a local garden centre.

Mr Simons, pictured with a coffee and sandwich similar to those that turned his life around last year, has now landed a job at a garden centre

Mr Simons, pictured with a coffee and sandwich similar to those that turned his life around last year, has now landed a job at a garden centre

Mr Simons received the hot drink through the charity's 'Suspended coffee' scheme where people can 'donate' £2 to pay for a coffee for a homeless person

Mr Simons received the hot drink through the charity's 'Suspended coffee' scheme where people can 'donate' £2 to pay for a coffee for a homeless person

Mr Simons had been living on the streets of Chester since he was 18 years old after suffering from bullying and abuse when he was a teenager, and turned to alcohol to cope.

He said: 'My addiction to alcohol started a few years before I ended up on the streets. 

'It was my way of coping with bullying at school and being mentally and physically abused at home. 

'I tried to hold down a few different catering jobs in pub kitchens and restaurants my addiction took over my life. 

'I ended up on the streets at 18 and my alcoholism just spiralled further and further out of control. 

'Last year the doctor told me I would only live for a few months if I carried on the way I was. 

'Then one of my mates told me about this place you could get a free coffee and sandwich.

'Ever since everyone here has given he so much support and help. I can't thank them enough.'

He added: 'Last Friday was the first time I've ever worn a suit to an interview and it's my first interview in more than 10 years. I was so nervous. 

'I'm really looking forward to starting my job. My life has completely changed in the last year. The turnaround has been amazing. 

'Now I'm looking forward to doing things like getting my own place to live and learning how to drive. I've got so many more opportunities than I ever thought I would have. 

'It just goes to show that even when you hit rock bottom, you can always get back up, you just have to try.' 

Mr Simons, pictured with SHARE shop manager Ann-Marie Chamberlain, said his life reached such a low point he broke into a police station with a knife as a 'cry for help'

Mr Simons, pictured with SHARE shop manager Ann-Marie Chamberlain, said his life reached such a low point he broke into a police station with a knife as a 'cry for help'

He detoxed while in prison for a month and when he came out he was supported by his friends at the shop, pictured

He detoxed while in prison for a month and when he came out he was supported by his friends at the shop, pictured

Mr Simons, who has been sober for four months, struggled to get funding for a homeless detox programme, and in November 2016 turned to extreme measures and broke into a police station with a knife.

He claims he did it because he knew jail time would force him to get clean.

Mr Simons, who spent less than a month in prison after admitting the crime, said leaving the streets behind had been bittersweet because he has cut ties with a lot of friends as he feels they are choosing to carry on with that lifestyle. 

But one of his biggest supports has been best friend Jenny Ackerley, who he met on the streets 12 years ago, and who also turned her life around through the ShareShop – where she now volunteers. 

He said: 'Breaking into the police station was a serious cry for help. I was so ill and I needed something that was going to force me to get clean. 

'I saw so many people get this detox funding and then p*** it up the wall the next day. 

'I got clean in prison and I was released on November 20. The only thing that could have made me relapse was having to go back to the streets but everyone from Share was there to make sure that didn't happen. 

'I have lost a lot of friends. Nearly everyone I know is from being homeless and now I've left a lot of them behind because they're choosing to carry on with that life. 

'But I've got new people around me and also my best friend Jenny. She has always stood by me through everything.' 

Customers at ShareShop, Chester, can pay £2 for a 'suspended coffee' that will be given to a homeless person along with free sandwiches donated by Sainsbury's and Tesco supermarkets. 

Those who buy a 'suspended coffee' can also write a note on the coffee cup for its eventual drinker. 

But the high street charity shop also work with Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) to get their homeless visitors into council flats and shared houses.

Mr Simons said he lived on the streets from age 18He turned to alcohol after suffering bullying and abuse in his teens
Mr Simons, pictured left and right when homeless, said he lived on the streets from age 18 due to bullying and abuse, turning to alcohol to cope
 Now he has cleaned himself up and is looking forward to starting his new job tomorrow

Now he has cleaned himself up and is looking forward to starting his new job tomorrow

Mr Simons will stay in one of the CATH houses until he has saved up enough to move into his own flat. 

Shop manager Ann-Marie Chamberlain, who has seen Mr Simons transform from a drunk who used to come in and dance with the shop's mannequins to a stand-up member of society starting a new job, said the emotional reward is amazing. 

The mother-of-one said: 'David is such a lovely guy and he has had a really rough time ever since childhood with he trouble at home. 

'He was an alcoholic and sometimes when he came in here he'd have no idea what was going on and he'd be dancing with the mannequins but he never caused any trouble. 

'I have always had a soft spot for the homeless and wanted to help them so working here has been great. 

'It's also nice to get people writing the messages and chatting to the homeless when they come in to break down those barriers. There's such a stigma around homelessness, they all get tarred with the same brush. 

'Obviously it is brilliant to see such a happy turnout for him. I'm so happy for him, he really deserves it.'

The charity posted pictures of Mr Simons from a year ago and last week on Facebook to emphasise the change in his life.

Ms Chamberlain said she is 'delighted' for Mr Simons and that he 'deserves' his new life

Ms Chamberlain said she is 'delighted' for Mr Simons and that he 'deserves' his new life

A spokesman wrote on Facebook: 'Twelve months ago David came to Share's ShareShop here in Chester and claimed a suspended coffee, bought for him by a complete stranger, and a sandwich donated by Tesco's on Frodsham St.

'David was homeless and really struggling with life on the streets. Since that day SHARE volunteers and the fantastic team at Chester Aid To The Homeless (CATH) have helped David turn his life around.

'Yesterday David went for a job interview, we helped him with his CV and got him suited and booted and took him for the interview, he came in today to tell us that he has been successful and starts work on Tuesday!'

The post added: 'David has asked us to post his story today, to show others still on the streets or suffering from addictions, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you engage with local services, and also to encourage the public to keep donating to local homeless charities such as Share and CATH so we can help many more people to get off the streets, kick their addictions and get a job and a bright new future in front of them.

David was given the sandwich after it was donated by the local Tesco in Chester, pictured

David was given the sandwich after it was donated by the local Tesco in Chester, pictured

'We would like to say a big thank you to the person who came in to our shop on that cold February day and bought that cup of #SuspendedCoffee and also to Tesco's & Sainsbury's for donating food to us, thank you so much.

'Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.'

The post has been shared more than 3,000 times as more than a thousand people have taken to social media to congratulate Mr Simons on his efforts.

Victoria Whitfield said: 'Well done David and all that helped him. This I so lovely. And heart warming to see happening...Wishing you the world of luck for your future.'

Dawn Holden added: 'An inspiration to many David may you continue to flourish and enjoy your new path in life x'

Archie Ricketts said: 'What an inspiration you are. In today's world you are the proof that kindness is ultimately the right way to change a persons world. 

'Good luck David and congratulations.'

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By World Staff Writer 02/14/2017 01:18:00