A former homeless man, who turned his life around after a stay at St George's Crypt in Leeds, has repaid the workers who helped him with an open letter he hopes will lead others to call on the services he says saved his life.
In his own words, 40-year-old Stephen Marham was a "broken man" when he first called at the crypt a couple of years ago and stayed for four nights, benefitting from shelter, food and friendship.
Battling with the fallout from a family break-up, he was later to become a resident at the charity's Faith Lodge, which offers beds to people who have made a conscious decision to fight addiction, staying for a total of 18 months while he rebuilt his life.
Stephen has now been living independently for over a year, but has returned to the crypt which made such a big difference to him to work as a volunteer and to help others who have found themselves in a similar predicament.
But, as St George's Crypt marks its 80th year, Stephen wanted to go the extra mile to promote the support available, writing an open letter which he hopes will help overcome the cynicism or scepticism which may prevent the hard-bitten homeless from turning to the charity for help.
He writes he will never be able to repay the volunteers who helped: "But I can by becoming a success and continuing to blossom because the crypt is what it is all about – people like me turn (sic) their lives around. It is a real pleasure to meet such incredibly wonderful people, something I thought never existed and wherever life takes me you will all have a special place in my heart.
"I'm hoping that 2011 will be a year of bigger and better things for me … and I know that it will be for the crypt too. My one wish this Christmas is that every person who walks through the door that needs help will reach out and take your hand, because if they do their lives will change for the better. I know mine has."
St George's Crypt spokesman Martin Pattison said staff have been moved by Stephen's gesture.
"It's something like this which makes it worthwhile as it vindicates what we're trying to do," he said. "Sometimes we may wonder what diffference we've made over the last 80 years but Stephen's letter illustrates that we do have an impact, which is very rewarding for us all."