AN ex-RAF serviceman and global marketing manager who recently found himself homeless is running the Brighton Marathon to raise awareness for Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.
Graeme Bellwood, 52, ended up on the streets after all his possessions were stolen by a man he employed to move belongings from his home in Sweden to the UK. He arrived in Brighton last June and stayed in B&Bs and hotels while he tried to resolve the situation.
Within six months, Graeme had ran out of money.
He said: “I was in total disbelief to be honest. I was only on the streets for a week, it’s unpleasant to say the least. There’s a stigma that goes along with being homeless, I had that stigma myself, that the homeless are only homeless due to their own actions and that’s just not the case.”
Since his time with WCHP, Graeme has met and become friends with people who have become homeless for a variety of reasons. These include a lady whose husband walked out on her while she was receiving treatment for cancer. “She was too poorly to work and was in rented accommodation which required two incomes,” he said.
Another was a pensioner not on the tenancy agreement when his wife left him.
One man was running his own business as a personal trainer but ended up in hospital with alcohol issues and subsequently relied upon WCHP.
Rachel Blair, community fundraiser for WCHP, said: “The stories you hear are not what you might expect. That’s why it’s fantastic Graeme is doing the marathon to raise awareness.”
When he first arrived in the UK from Sweden he found out his parents were suffering from dementia and were unable to recognise him, and his best friend in Hove was having a breakdown.
Graeme said it was not in his nature to ask others for help and that it was his pride that prevented him from doing so – a mind-set that is not uncommon according to Rachel.
“People who know you don’t expect you to be in a situation where everything isn’t 100 per cent ok,” said Graeme.
He visited the Worthing Churches Homeless Projects day centre each morning when he was on the street for a shower and breakfast.
He was then offered a place in a short-term assessment hostel where he spent six weeks.
“The amount of support the charity has given me is life-saving. I have got shelter, I have got food, I was assigned a key worker who helps you with any issues you may have. I’m now in independent accommodation looking for work,” he said.
Graeme, who used to compete in triathlons, is in training for the Brighton marathon on April 6. He said he would be ‘hard-selling’ his story to businesses in the hope they would sponsor him.
Rachel said: “We are really grateful he’s made this decision as it’s so important we raise awareness of the reality of homelessness. It’s a really brave thing.”
Graeme added: “It’s a very humbling experience and you learn a lot from it. I think it has made me a better person.”
He said he was seeking employment and once he had a job it would be ‘normal service resumed’.