A former rough sleeper who lost nearly a quarter of a century to homelessness and alcoholism received an OBE at Buckingham Palace for his services to homeless people.
Jimmy Carlson slept rough on London’s Embankment for many years, less than a mile from where he received his medal. He spent 23 years addicted to alcohol, either on the streets or in institutions such as homeless hostels before becoming abstinent in 1996 and dedicating his life to improving homelessness services.
Over the past sixteen years, the 65-year old 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’s award was announced in the Queen’s Birthday honours list earlier this year.
Jimmy Carlson said: ““Today is the proudest day of my life in receiving this honour. I want my story to send a message of hope to other people that find themselves in real trouble. Volunteering turned my life around – I suddenly found myself useful again. So give something back. Don’t ever give up.
“Never give up on anyone too. People have got a lot to offer. Just because they are going through difficulty now – doesn’t mean they can’t turn their life around. I was homeless for 23 years – on the streets, in mental institutions, prisons, the lot. But I turned my life around and have since had the honour of helping lots of homeless people get their lives back on track too. People had a life before being homeless and with the right support, I proved you can have a full life after homelessness too.”
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.”