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James Hilling will be spreading Christmas cheer to the needy in Southampton
JUST four years ago he was homeless himself.
But today James Hilling will be bringing Christmas cheer to some of Southampton’s most needy people.
The gentle giant, who stands at just over 7ft tall, is aiming to feed dozens of homeless people across the city.
James, 34, will set up a stand in Hoglands Park on Christmas Day, where he will serve up refreshments, hot meals and snacks to those who need it most.
Bosses at Southampton newsagent PitStop News, in Belvedere Road, are supporting him by donating plastic cups, hot drinks, soup, mince pies and microwave meals to be given out on Christmas Day.
Another Hampshire firm, HSS Hire has also backed James, by pledging the use of its generators and tables on the day, while Golden Wonder distributor Symingtons has given more than 300 pot noodle and pot rice meals to the cause.
James lost his job as a professional tour manager for music stars like Dizzee Rascal, Lethal Bizzle and The Enemy in 2008.
He plunged into depression and began sleeping rough on the city’s streets. But he has turned his life around and is now working as an insurance broker at Miles Smith in Shamrock Quay.
James, of Bullar Road, Bitterne Park, said: “I know what it’s like to be homeless. I grew up in children’s homes across the region and when I lost my job I just got so badly depressed that I ended up on the streets with no one to turn to.
“Anyone who’s been through that will tell you it’s pretty tough.
“There is a stereotype that homeless people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, but a lot of these people are fantastic human beings. These are the kind of people we should be trying to reach out to.
“I just want to give these people something little to cheer about on Christmas Day, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, even if it’s just a chat over a cup of tea.
“So many people have rallied round to help. It’s gone from an idea of a little food giveaway to potentially being a party in the park.”
James plans to set up his stall from 10am this morning after the scheme was given approval by Southampton City Council.
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