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A 26-year-old, who left his drug-fuelled life behind, is guiding light for Ilford’s homeless

15:39 21 December 2012

When most 11-year-olds were starting secondary school, Jason was living a drug-fuelled life as part of a gang of armed robbers – but his remarkable turnaround is providing a light of inspiration to some of the borough’s most destitute.

As our Christmas appeal for the needy reaches its final week, one man has told us the support of a Redbridge shelter helped him turn his life around and take him away from violent crime.

After being put in prison nine times, Jason now gives up his time to help others staying at the Salvation Army night shelter, Clements Road, Ilford.

“I know exactly how they feel and I want to show them there’s a different way in life. Society doesn’t want them any more and I want to help,” he said.

In a revealing interview, Jason told how he came from a broken home and at the age of 11 became involved with gangs and drugs in an attempt to find some stability.

He said that many people who end up on the streets turn to crime as a way of surviving.

“When you’re on the streets you will become a criminal, you will shoplift food,” Jason said. “Some people become heroin addicts just to block everything out, or turn to alcohol to keep out the cold.”

He said that those on the streets are often treated with disgust which is isolating and dehumanising for anyone finding themselves without somewhere to sleep.

His story lays bare the stark reality of life on the streets for homeless people as shelter workers try to keep those without homes alive and safe.

John Clifton, 26, a corps officer at the Salvation Army, said the number of people turning up to the shelter is more than last year and they are struggling to cope with demand.

He added: “Times are harder. The first response is to keep people alive during the cold weather – they are part of our community.”

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