Littleport woman launches campaign to get homeless Ely man rehoused in time for Christmas

Littleport mum Sophie Short is trying to get Charlie Johnson, who has been homeless for five years,

Littleport mum Sophie Short is trying to get Charlie Johnson, who has been homeless for five years, off the streets of Ely in time for Christmas. Picture: SOPHIE SHORT - Credit: Archant

Charlie Johnson tells anyone who asks where he lives the same – ‘the bin by Ely library’.

It's been that way, he says, for five years but now a Littleport woman is launching a campaign to rehouse him in time for Christmas.

Sophie Short said: "I'd seen Charlie a number of times in Ely but last week I stopped and spoke to him for the first time.

"He had his head in his book as he always does and when he looked up he greeted me with a smile.

"I asked if I could get him anything. He said he would really love a hot chocolate."

Mrs Short said: "I'm going to create a Facebook page so that Ely residents can help him too. In the hour I was sat chatting to him at least 25 people passed or stopped to ask how Charlie was.

"I was overwhelmed by how many kind people there are in Ely."

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She added: "You never know in life if you are one day away from losing everything. I've had a near-death experience in the past year and that woke me up. I want to help him.

"You might not be able to change the world but you can change the world for one person."

Mrs Short says that staff at Costa Coffee regularly take Charlie hot food and drinks and let him use their toilet.

Because he doesn't have a postal address he is unable to work, volunteer or open a bank account.

"We got into a conversation about how he became homeless (a marriage breakdown) and how over the years the son he had custody of took his life due to a disability he suffered from," said Mrs Short. "My heart broke for him.

"There I was earlier that morning in my warm bed dreading what the day would bring, yet here was Charlie having been through what he's been through, sat in the cold but able to offer me a smile as I approached him."

She added: "He told me he doesn't ask for money or food for fear of being arrested. He also told me he recently suffered a heart attack due to the stress of being homeless.

"Before leaving him I took down the details he could give me - he laughed and told me his address was 'the black bin by the coffee shop'.

"Even in the cold this man could make me laugh and smile."