Jimmy Carlson – an inspirational
activist who was awarded an OBE for services to combating homelessness – has
died aged 69.
Jimmy was a former rough sleeper who
spent nearly a quarter of a century living on the streets and in hostels –
after five years serving as a soldier with the Royal Pioneer Corps.
Jimmy became abstinent from his
alcohol addiction in 1996 and spent the next 20 years dedicating his life to
Jimmy began volunteering with the
homelessness charity Groundswell in 1997 and was the leading figure at the organisation
for 20 years – serving as a Trustee for the past five years. His passion was
ensuring that homeless people themselves had a voice – and could be directly involved
in tackling homelessness.
According to Groundswell
Chief Executive, Athol Halle: “Homelessness
has been on the rise for the past six years. Now more than ever we need
inspirational leaders like Jimmy Carlson – to wake our society up to the fact that
homelessness is unacceptable. Jimmy showed us that with passion and commitment
you can achieve wonders – and that the best thing you can do for someone who is
homeless is give them the opportunity to make a contribution.”
Jimmy created the Homeless People’s
Commission with Groundswell – collecting homeless people’s views from around
the UK and presenting policy recommendations in the House of Lords in 2011.
Prior to that Jimmy delivered
training on client involvement around the UK and was responsible for setting up
numerous client involvement groups – including Outside In, the client
involvement group for St Mungo’s, London’s largest homelessness service
provider in 2006.
Jimmy was responsible for pioneering
the ‘Speakout’ with Groundswell in the late 1990s running hundreds of events
around the country where homeless people could talk directly to those in power.
Jimmy also served as a Trustee for
the Museum of Homelessness, and was preparing an exhibition to be launched at
the Tate Modern in April 2017.
Jess Turtle, co-founder, said: “Jimmy was instrumental in
the development of the Museum of Homelessness; a champion, a wise counsel and a
dear friend. This is a devastating loss for us and for the many others who knew
and loved him.”
Jimmy was also involved in setting up
The Haven, a club where people in recovery from substance misuse could meet in
an alcohol and drug free environment, to help each other get their lives back
on track. Starting with a £500 grant, Jimmy has raised over £100,000 to keep
the club going.
Jimmy was born in Leeds
in 1947 and passed away following respiratory health complications.
Jeremy Swain, Thames Reach Chief Executive, said: “For many years Jimmy Carlson had demons to
battle which led to him becoming street homeless. Showing astonishing
determination, Jimmy tackled his addiction problem and then went on to be a
wonderful role model, working tirelessly to give people the confidence to take
the same journey as himself and holding the government to account to tackle
homelessness. We have lost a truly inspirational friend and colleague.”
On receiving his OBE in the Queen’s Birthday
Honours in 2012 Jimmy said: “I am
humbled to receive this honour. I have been to the very bottom and never would
have imagined this day then. Lots of people have helped me on the way and I can
only hope that my story can inspire others – the same way I have been helped.”
“My message is never give up on anyone. You would have
walked over me in the street 15 years ago and thought I was a lost cause, just
another drunk. However I picked myself up and turned my life around and I have
gone on to make a decent contribution to my community. Rough sleepers you see
on the street today – with the right support they have a lot to offer too.
Never give up on anyone.”