Lifeline for homeless man from strangers

A homeless man in Wigan is back on his feet after a social media post appealing for help went viral.

Monday, 19th June 2017, 10:44 am
Updated Monday, 19th June 2017, 12:54 pm
Bill Harrison and partner Nicky

John Green fell on hard times when a relationship ended badly and he found himself living on the streets of the town centre until a local entrepreneur decided to help.

James Gallagher, 25, is the owner of Steak Away, a takeaway on Wigan Lane that has been feeding the homeless community of Wigan since opening earlier this year.

He wanted to show people on the streets that society does care about them and they haven’t been forgotten.

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“Since we opened, each night we take what food we have leftover and feed the homeless, or we make a new batch.

“We’ve got to know some of the people there and John has always stood out as a genuine guy. He’s very well spoken and very polite. There have been times were I’ve seen him reading novels when on the streets. He genuinely ended up homeless because of bad luck, and although he wanted to help himself get right, I wanted to help him, too.”

James took it upon himself to try to improve John’s situation, but after ringing a number of different charities, he hit a dead end when none were able to help John get back integrated into society.

James then decided to use the power of social media, and asked for help on Facebook from the Wigan community.

His appeal post on the Steak Away Facebook page was shared over 250 times, and luckily for John, the post was shown to Bill Harrison, owner of Just Blinds, who wanted to help straight away.

Bill, 52, said: “My partner Nicky showed me the appeal. We’d been looking for a part-time member of staff to join the company and Nicky asked could John possibly be our new employee. At first I was just thinking about offering him a job, but as I had an unoccupied house, I thought that we could offer him that as well.”

With Bill away on holiday, James helped John move into the terrace house, and thanks to the continuous support, John was given duvets, pillows and kitchen appliances to make his new house feel more like home.

When John went to see the house for the first time, James said his reaction was priceless.

“He was overjoyed. It was really refreshing to see someone so appreciative of something that a lot of us take for granted.”

John has a few weeks to settle in before he starts his first day as a Just Blinds employee. He will start as a part-time worker and once he feels ready he can go on to full time.

Explaining why it was important for him to help, Bill revealed a very special reason for his generosity.

“My son, Will, died last year and I thought he’d really like me to do something like this for someone. He would have wanted me to do it.”

Bill added: “I’m hoping we can strike up a good relationship. It’ll be a win-win situation for us both, a new job for John and a handy new employee for the company.”

John spoke of the heartwarming generosity of James Bill, saying: “They have all been amazing. I’ve been on the streets for seven months and not that many people tried to help. (James and Bill) have done amazing things. It’s definitely exciting.”

The 34-year-old who is originally from Lower Ince, also commented on the homelessness crisis that has blighted the borough in recent years.

“It’s really bad,” he said.

“I think the authorities try to sweep it under the carpet. I really do think they try to ignore it.”

Although John is miles ahead from where he was a couple of months ago, he will still need help from the Wigan community.

James said: “If anyone has any electrical goods or anything that they wish to donate to john then please feel free to drop them off at our shop and I will make sure they reach him.”