I was a loser. A no-hoper. A complete dropout.
At least, that's what people thought of me when I was homeless. Even my family thought that all hope was lost.
In truth, I was lost. I'd lost my way because I'd made some bad choices in life. Although I was determined to make a big success of my life, I was burning the candle at both ends, using drugs to hide my insecurities. There's only one way I could go - down. And I did.
Homelessness was my wakeup call. It made me realise that I wasn't going to get anything in life by following the same actions as I'd been doing all along. I needed to change.
Dusting myself off (quite literally), I turned my life around and began to make a difference to my destiny. I pulled out EVERYTHING to make it happen.
Two decades later I was finally in the position where I could help others in the same situation. KipBag was born.
Most of us are lucky enough to snuggle up into our high-tog duvets when it's chilly at night. But for those sleeping rough on the streets of Britain it's a case of survival - for their lives.
Homelessness is a killer. The average life expectancy of a homeless male is just 47 years old (43 for homeless women). That's THIRTY YEARS less than the UK average.
We set up KipBag to help these unfortunate people. KipBags are a pack of essential items designed to keep the homeless warm, clean and restore some of their dignity. But to do so, we need your help by donating one or more KipBags.
Sure, we know that by giving out KipBags we can't eradicate homelessness. But one thing is absolutely clear - these unfortunate people need immediate help in the form of comfort and warmth on cold, wet nights.
As a society we can't allow homeless people die on Britain's streets. Please help us play a small (but worthwhile) role for our society by helping us provide KipBags to the homeless, and to try to reduce the number of needless deaths.
You can help us to help them - please consider gifting a KipBag today.Donate a KipBag
My homeless story
When I was young I had a burning desire to shape my own destiny. I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt it for the first time when I was ten. I remember thinking to myself "Gosh. This is my life. I need to make it count".
It was like an itch that couldn't be scratched. I was a shy and naive boy with few friends and I certainly didn't understand the concept of ambition and drive.
After leaving school I followed my family's footsteps by joining the Royal Navy. I spent five years travelling the world, seeing the sights, and experiencing many new things that the world had to offer. It turned me into a man, taught me self-discipline and to stand on my own two feet.
But, it wasn't enough. I wanted to shape my future destiny in my own way, so I decided to leave the navy and set out towards London with a few belongings, just as Dick Whittington did, in search for gold.
Anyone that's been to London will tell you that London can be a lonely, unforgiving place for strangers. Despite the few odd jobs here and there, my luck was running out, and I eventually became homeless. I could no longer afford a house, flat, bedsit or hostel. I was pretty much penniless, and I didn't have anywhere I could call 'home'. I was broke.
Sometimes a friend would allow me to sleep on their sofa for a few days. Other nights I would walk the streets until the early morning, waiting for the first tube to start running so I could catch up on some sleep on the Circle Line. And on other nights I just found somewhere quiet to close my eyes for a while.
I never did admit I was homeless, until many years later. I was always too proud to admit it, and even kept much of it from my own family. I also refused to admit it because I wasn't a stereotypical homeless person. I wasn't in a hostel for the homeless, I wasn't claiming any benefits, and I didn't bed down in a sleeping bag in a doorway each night.
But, I was practically invisible to society. Basically, I hid. I was one of society's 'hidden homeless'. Just keeping out of sight, and out of mind.
Luckily, I still had that ambition and drive. I was down to my last pound or two in my pocket, so I decided to put it to good use.
I went to a shop, and bought a toy mobile phone for 67 pence, with a view to selling it for a profit.
I went out, took it door-to-door, and eventually sold it for three pounds, almost five times the original cost. First things first - I bought myself a bag of chips because I was hungry, and headed back to the shop and bought three more, which I took back out to the streets, and sold them for nine pounds.
With this nine pounds, I went and bought more, and kept repeating this pattern every day, until I could check into a hostel each night.
And so, this routine continued, until I was making almost £900 a week - which was a lot of money 25 years ago. I was building my finances back up again, and with it my dignity, and I was beginning to feel like I was a part of society again.
Eventually, I'd made enough money to consider what the next chapter of my life was going to be. Along with selling my 'stuff' door to door, I was now also the night manager of the backpacker's hostel, and it was that position that launched a 5-year stint in the hotel and catering industry, where I eventually became restaurant manager at a four-star hotel.
As restaurant manager, I had to get involved with advertising - producing leaflets, designing menus, and creating strategies for attracting customers. I realised marketing was my dream job. At that time the web was young, and I jumped on the chance of learning web design, web development, and internet marketing. This was my calling! This was IT.
But, during the early years of this new career I once again found myself in trouble. Over the course of the next few years I became homeless yet again – on three occasions. It felt that life had dealt me a bad hand.
But I never gave up. I wanted to see what I was capable of, so I carried on... trying to reach my full potential.
In 2003 whilst working full time I started work on my very first website, which became a success. I was putting in 18 hours a day for many months, and I was running on passion alone. I was exhausted, but I went ahead and built my second website. Then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth.
Seven years later my websites were earning a lot of money, so I gave up my full-time job and incorporated my business. My five websites soon turned into a portfolio of more than 30 within a few years – some were successful, others flopped.
With the drive and ambition that has been with me since childhood, I've been able to turn my dream into a reality, and now have a successful digital publishing business with a portfolio of websites that more than 1 in 7 of the UK population use each year.
Despite my many setbacks and obstacles, I wouldn't change my journey for all the money in the world. The adversity I went through shaped me into the person I am today.
I am proof that the stereotypical homeless person is a lazy 'no-hoper' isn't true. Often, all the homeless want to do is to find their way back into society and make THEIR dreams and ambitions come true.
Homelessness has been a huge part of my life and I count myself lucky that I can now contribute something back to help others in similar circumstances.
Last year I set up a charity to help the homeless with these basic necessities. I got together with two other people who had a passion for this cause - Amy Wood and Eric Farrow, and we created KipBag.
Instead of handing out cash, KipBags are a pack of essential items that keep the homeless warm, clean and help restore some dignity. Within each KipBag there is a sleeping bag, toiletries, woollen hats, warm socks and first aid items.
All three of us have one thing in common - we're ready to roll up our sleeves and help bring a little comfort to the streets. We don't get paid. We're not on a salary. Donating a KipBag costs £15, and we make sure that EVERY KipBag contains £15 worth of essential items. The cost of distributing them comes out of our own pockets.
Homelessness is a huge problem for society. For some, it leads to a severe health problems. Others turn to crime. Some are exploited, and are exposed to serious danger. Drug and alcohol use is common. And of course, people die. The average life expectancy of a homeless man is just 47. For women, it's 43! That's 30 years less than the UK average.
One thing they all have in common – they have little or no access to the things we take for granted, such as shelter, warmth, washing facilities and safety.
KipBags alone can't eradicate homelessness. But what they do is provide immediate relief for some of the most vulnerable in society. Our first six months have been phenomenal, but we're still a long way from our goal of distributing 3,500 KipBags each year.
They say that people are just two pay packets away from homelessness. It’s a sad fact that homelessness can happen to any of us - at a moment's notice.
The good news is that there seems to be a growing number of the general public who are saying "enough is enough – I need to help". I am so grateful to see people like them – and you - working together to help some of the most vulnerable people in Britain. These are good people that don't hide from the reality - and the truth - of homelessness.Donate a KipBag
Watch our two minute introductory video that we produced to ask people to help the homeless.
How it works
Our purpose is simple: we want to get as many KipBags to those who need them. To do that we need your help:
- Gift a KipBag today
We've made it quick and easy to donate a KipBag. Just tell us how many KipBags you want to donate, and purchase them using secure payment by PayPal.
- We assemble the KipBags
When we reach multiples of 50 KipBags, we purchase all the items for the packs, and put them together, ready to distribute to the homeless.
- We distribute the KipBags
Our team choose one city each month to distribute the KipBags to. We scour the streets for homeless people, handing them out to those that need them.
- We donate the excess
If we find we have more KipBags than we need, we choose a homeless charity in the city and give them the remaining KipBags, ready for them to distribute where necessary.
Note: Everyone who is involved in KipBag does so completely voluntarily. Every single penny that KipBag makes goes into helping the homeless. We try to put around £1.50 aside from each KipBag donated to help us with our costs, including web hosting, distribution and raising awareness.
No-one at KipBag receives a salary.