A Big Issue seller who was taken out of the cold and given a home has begun a crusade to keep his homeless friends warm too.
Andrew McGarry, 48, slept rough in Towcester for six months until generous regulars at the Brave Old Oak helped him rent a bedsit in the town.
But now, Andrew has borrowed trolleys from Co-op and is collecting hundreds of pounds worth of camping gear for people who remain on the streets.
He wheels the trolley loads of tents, sleeping bags and warm clothes to St Lawrence Church in Chantry Lane where the homeless collect the items.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Andrew, whose benefits were stopped in May.
“Keep going, be strong and keep yourself away from the negative comments and verbal abuse.
“If you stay in control and be calm about things, you will pick up sleeping bags and bits and pieces.
“I wanted to give something back and it’s gone a lot better than I thought it would.”
Andrew approached Nationwide bank in Watling Street and asked if staff could help him collect the camping items.
Customers have already filled four trolley-loads full of sleeping bags, tents, warm clothes and flasks.
Andrew said: “I came into the bank to warm up the other day and to see how the trolley was doing and a lady said she was going straight home and will come back with a pair of woolly gloves and some hats.
“I think we can get 10 trolley loads by the end of the month.”
Sarah Findell, customer representative at the branch, thinks Andrew’s local celebrity status and the cold weather has helped customers dig deep.
She said: “Andrew’s presence has made it very real. He has shown people can move on and he knows exactly the sort of things people need.
“He gave us a very specific list and our customers have been really, really generous. Some have literally gone home, straight in the loft and come back with sleeping bags.
“I think the weather has been a major factor too.
“We work in a warm environment and people see the trolley and think I’ve just moaned about walking from the car park - what must it be like for people on the streets?”
Andrew arrived in Towcester last summer with just a £20 note in his pocket and started selling the Big Issue but he was able to see in the New Year from his bedsit.
Brave Old Oak landlord David Cooper paid for Mr McGarry’s £200 deposit and his punters held a Facebook whip-round to install items including a new microwave and curtains. Someone even gave him a fish tank.
Andrew, said: “It was unbelievable. Once people knew I had managed to get the place, everything was provided for me.
“There’s no central heating, it’s freezing, but the St Lawrence Church gave me an oil-filled radiator.”
Andrew, originally from Kettering, was separated from his twin brother, David, at birth and occasionally speaks to his sister, Davina, who works at McDonald’s in Peterborough.
He served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s with the Royal Fusiliers and then worked as a builder in Great Yarmouth and Cambridge but fell on tough times when he quit his job.
Andrew continues to sell the Big Issue to keep up rent payments and is holding a jumble sale on March 7 at St Lawrence Church from 10am until noon.