A FORMER alcoholic who spent nearly a quarter of a century sleeping rough before turning his life around and becoming a campaigner for homeless people has died aged 69.
Jimmy Carlson, who was awarded an OBE in 2012, died on January 8 as a result of respiratory health complications, homelessness charity Groundswell said.
Tributes have been paid to Mr Carlson, described as a “wonderful role model” and an “inspirational leader”.
Mr Carlson served as a soldier for five years with the Royal Pioneer Corps - but after being discharged from the forces in 1973, he became addicted to alcohol and began living on the streets.
He stopped drinking in 1996 after 23 years of sleeping rough and dedicated the rest of his life to tackling homelessness.
Mr Carlson, who was born in Leeds, began volunteering with Groundswell in 1997 and has served as a trustee for the charity for the last five years.
He helped establish the Homeless People’s Commission, which presented policy recommendations to the House of Lords in 2011 and was involved in setting up The Haven, a club which provides an alcohol and drug-free environment for those recovering from substance abuse.
The club began with a £500 grant but Mr Carlson went on to raise more than £100,000 to keep it running. On receiving his OBE in 2012 for services to homeless people, he said: “I have been to the very bottom and never would have imagined this day then.”
Athol Halle, chief executive of Groundswell, said: “Now more than ever we need inspirational leaders like Jimmy Carlson – to wake our society up to the fact that homelessness is unacceptable.”
Jeremy Swain, of charity Thames Reach, which is a partner of Groundswell, said he tackled his addiction problem and then went on to be a wonderful role model.