Edinburgh Cheer: How kindness of a stranger helped man turn his life around

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Years of living a turbulent life, losing touch with his family and sleeping rough on the city streets had left Kevin Chalmers with little hope.

The 51-year-old began to lose a grip of his life after 20 years of substance abuse and eventually ended up homeless with nothing but a sleeping bag to call his own.

Kevin Chalmers, Destiny street impact coordinator with Christmas hampers ready for donation

Kevin Chalmers, Destiny street impact coordinator with Christmas hampers ready for donation

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His tragic journey led him to spend five years sitting on the pavements of Edinburgh, gradually losing the will to get through each day.

His self-worth and sense of place in the world was at rock bottom.

But one day he was offered a helping hand.

Someone reached out to show him that there are people who could support him in turning his life around.

And now he is back on the streets, but this time encouraging other people who are struggling to survive, and making sure they know that there are people who care.

He said initiatives like the Edinburgh Cheer campaign demonstrate the importance of spreading goodwill to those who need it most.

Kevin, who is a now an impact co-ordinator and “Destiny Angel” with Destiny Church in the Capital, said if you had told him five years ago what he would be doing now he would not believe it.

“What a turnaround in my life – I am so grateful to be doing what I am now, it is just unbelievable. For 20 years I was putting hope in all the wrong things.

“I lost my partner, my kids, my family, my job, all my material possessions, and I ended up with nothing but a sleeping bag.

“I had no contact with members of my family for years because I felt I had let them down.

“But now I am making amends and I am in contact with my brother and I see my daughter regularly – I could never have got here and done this by myself.

“I tell the people who I speak to on the streets saying – I was there, it can happen.”

Kevin said it is the damage from feeling discarded and responsible for their situations that makes it difficult for homeless people to reach out. “I think people label people who are on the streets – the situation is not always their fault, we all make decisions that affect our life and becoming homeless means people tend to lose their self worth and their identity

“There are more people who will walk past you on the street than stop and that has an impact. When I was on the street, I didn’t know what was going on any more. You sit there and you’re low and people don’t want much to do with you – you just get worse and worse.”

After going through a painful 18 month rehabilitation at Bethany Christian Centre, Kevin began to get involved in Destiny Church who also run outreach programmes for the homeless.

And now in its seventh year a Destiny Angels’ Christmas Hamper Appeal sees Destiny Church work with charities and organisations across the city who are supporting local communities at grass roots level. Some of the charities being supported this year include Women’s Aid, Gowrie Care, Turning Point and Citadel Youth Project.

Each “box of love” contains festive food items and gifts to help those struggling to enjoy a Christmas meal and know that someone is thinking of them.

Destiny Church’s Elizabeth Bowes, said: “As a church, we’re not OK with the fact that one in five families in Edinburgh lives below the poverty line, and that 18 per cent of children live in low-income households. Through our different Destiny Angels social action outreaches, we aim to show our community that people care and to express love in practical and intentional ways.”

To contribute to the hamper appear, e-mail hampers@destinyedinburgh.com or phone 0131 5552707.