A homeless man had all his possessions stolen while sleeping rough in a Plymouth car park.
Gadget and his friend Gary had stepped away from their shelter in the multi-story car park on Regent Street for only a few minutes, but when they returned they discovered everything they owned had been taken.
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Following a request for help on social media from event manager Marcus Crandon at the Fresher and Professor, scores of people have come forward to supply Gadget with waterproof clothing, a sleeping bag and other essentials.
“All these donations have given me hope and it’s given me life,” Gadget told The Herald.
“A lot of people, you ask for change and they just blank you, they don’t even acknowledge you. It’s just nice to speak to someone, if someone stops and has a conversation with you, you feel a bit more normal.
“You get talked down to a lot. The drunk people will stop and talk to you and they say they’ll bring you a sandwich and that’s the last you see of them. It’s the people you least expect who look after you.”
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Gadget, 50, is open about committing crimes in the past, but is adamant that’s not a life he wants to return to.
“I’m just trying to do the right thing,” he said.
“I could go back to stealing, it would be easy for me to do that, but I don’t want to. I could go and break a window and get myself arrested, but I don’t want to.”
Marcus first met Gadget six months ago at his usual nighttime spot on the corner of Switch bar on North Hill and the pair struck up a friendship.
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“He was just a friendly, nice person,” Marcus said.
“We started off talking about the weather and how busy it was and then we ended up sharing cigarettes. Then I started buying him food and if it was quiet I’d sit down with him.
“He’s had some really bad luck and it’s heart-breaking to see a genuine, nice human and what he goes through every night. On shift I’ll be stood ten metres away from him for up to five hours and with the rain as it is and sitting in the same spot – it’s just really sad to see.”
Gadget saw Marcus the night after his things were taken and Marcus offered to help in any way he could – firstly offering to request access to the cctv in the car park and potentially identifying the alleged thief. A couple nights after that, Marcus found Gadget distraught.
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“His life was gone when his stuff was taken,” Marcus said.
“I found him bawling his eyes out. Someone had thrown 20p at him and told him to, “Get some more drugs”. Gadget told him to keep it and the guy swore and spat at him.
“Gadget got up to argue and they ended up in an altercation. He told me he didn’t feel human anymore.”
Since Marcus posted an appeal for help on Facebook he said he has been inundated with messages of support and offering donations.
“I’ve not heard a bad word said about Gadget. Some people have dropped in clothes, others have sent me money. He’s got a new waterproof bag, I’m working on getting him a military-grade sleeping bag, I’ve also got him some vitamin tablets because he is 50 years old. I want to try and make him feel human again.
“The problem is that you can’t overdress someone because then they don’t look homeless and people won’t donate money to him. Fresher and Professor have been fantastic, they’ve said they’d like to donate some money to put Gadget up in a hotel so he can shower and sleep, but then if he’s off the street for a couple nights he won’t be able to earn anything and then also someone could take his spot.”
Gadget told The Herald he has been stabbed once, assaulted four times, and had his possessions taken three times since becoming homeless around a year ago.
“The people that help me are local people that have got to know me,” Gadget said.
“The general public usually walk past you, won’t even look at you, they look at the floor. The abuse is the worst and I can’t even go to the police because they assume I must be in trouble for begging.”
Marcus is now looking at creating a scheme provisionally titled One For Bud whereby drinkers could choose at the bar to donate the cost of a drink towards a fund which would be used to clothe the homeless.
“I want to get into local businesses and people will say order six shots and we’ll ask if they want to ‘buy one for Bud’ and if they say yes we’ll take the money for that seventh shot and that will then be donated to buy hats, shoes, coats, things like that for homeless people. I can sew very well so I can also wash and fix up coats and there might be a trading system or something like that.
“Gadget has even started distributing the clothing that have been donated that don’t fit him to other homeless people.”
Anyone wishing to donate items to Gadget can find him on the corner next to Switch bar on North Hill most nights or at North Cross roundabout during the day.
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