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They are still a person under the blanket

A security manager who spent time on the streets when he lost his job says people need to be more kind to those sleeping rough and remember that there is ‘still a person under the blanket’.

Paul Hesslewood, 41, from Newcastle, will spend a night sleeping rough inside the city’s St James’ Park on 23 March in a bid to raise money for the charity, CEO Sleepout, and build awareness of the issues affecting people without a home.

After spending a period of time on the streets himself more than 20 years ago, Paul has been in a stable home ever since and is a Retail Security Contract Manager at Kingdom Group, which he joined in January 2023.

“I want people to learn that not all homeless people are drug addicts or ex-offenders and people that need to do more,” he says. “They are still a person under the blanket, whatever the story, everyone is human.”

He goes on: “How many pay checks are you from being in the same situation? It’s often said people are three pay checks from losing their home. At that point, what would you do?”

Paul spent some years working in London where accommodation was included but found himself sofa surfing and sleeping rough after losing his job and having no-one to turn to.

“I sofa surfed most nights, but I did have one or two cold nights where this wasn’t possible for whatever reason,” he says.

Paul says he turned his life around after getting help from a relative who offered to put him up temporarily. After spending some time at theirs, the relative then got him a coach home and Paul aimed to put that period of his life behind him.

He says: “Occasionally, I stayed at a squat but none of these options were great. Fortunately, however, there was an intervention from a family member who lived not too far away.”

Paul says he is looking forward to raising the money, but does expect the conditions to bring back memories of what happened to him many years ago.

He says: “It’s at that point, just before midnight, where you can’t sleep, where the cold hits you. You then realise you can’t go to the cupboard or fridge to get something.”

Mark Wallace, Group Director at Kingdom, says: “Paul is an exceptional colleague and we are so happy to have his skills and life experience making a difference within the Group.

“We, at Kingdom, will support Paul as he prepares to do his charity sleepout and look forward to seeing how much he raises and the awareness his efforts promote.”

You can support Paul’s efforts by donating on his JustGiving page.