A former rough sleeper who spent nearly a quarter of a century living on the streets and in hostels is to receive an OBE for his services to homeless people.
Jimmy Carlson, a former soldier, spent the 23 years after being discharged from the forces addicted to alcohol, before becoming abstinent in 1996 and dedicating his life to improving homelessness services.
Over the past fifteen years, the 64 year old Londoner has advocated the importance of listening to the experiences of homeless people and involving them in overhauling services and improving policy.
He has set up numerous client involvement groups inspiring thousands of homeless people to transform their lives and the lives of others.
Through his involvement with Groundswell, the UK’s leading client involvement and self-help group working in the field of homelessness, Jimmy has brought homeless people into contact with ministers from both the New Labour and Coalition Governments.
Most recently, he was a member of the Homeless People’s Commission which collected the views of homeless people and presented their policy recommendations to the House of Lords.
Jimmy was also involved in setting up The Haven, a club where people in recovery from substance misuse could meet in an alcohol and drug free environment, to help each other get their lives back on track. Starting with a £500 grant, Jimmy has now raised over £100,000 to keep the club going.
Jimmy Carlson said: “I am humbled to receive this honour. I have been to the very bottom and never would have imagined this day then. Lots of people have helped me on the way and I can only hope that my story can inspire others – the same way I have been helped.”
“My message is never give up on anyone. You would have walked over me in the street 15 years ago and thought I was a lost cause, just another drunk. However I picked myself up and turned my life around and I have gone on to make a decent contribution to my community. Rough sleepers you see on the street today – with the right support they have a lot to offer too. Never give up on anyone.”
“Services need to make sure that homeless people are given the chance to do things for themselves – that is the way out of homelessness. Homeless people need to be involved in the care they receive – so they can find their independence – not be mollycoddled. The best thing you can do for someone who is homeless is give them the opportunity to make a contribution.”
According to Groundswell Chief Executive, Athol Halle: “Jimmy has a very special quality in being taken seriously by everyone – whether they be a rough sleeper or a Government minister.
He has taken huge steps forward in his life, from living on the streets to picking up an honour at Buckingham Palace.
“He has contributed more than anyone in the UK to the cause of involving former rough sleepers in the issue of homelessness and he richly deserves his OBE.”