Last year, Sam Ashworth spotted a man sitting with his dog outside Lurke Street car park, reading a copy of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic.
Sam, 21, said: “It is my favourite novel so I struck up a conversation with him about the book and bought him a cup of tea. He was a very eloquent and interesting guy, and I kept seeing him about for the next few months.
“I would always stop and chat, but after a few months he vanished.”
The meeting left Sam thinking how he could help people who find themselves living on the street.
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He said: “There’s plenty of organisations which deal with homing people so I thought, what can I do to make their nights on the street more bearable?
“In August, I started giving overnight packs away, which contain a fleece blanket, bottle of water, packet of high-carb biscuits, wolly socks, a packet of sweets, and anything else that people have donated, all in a drawstring bag.”
Sam has funded his Outside Help programme through donations from friends and family, and spends most weekends meeting homeless people and offering them a bag. He also ensures his friend Rosie, owner of Hanworth Interiors in The Arcade, has a stock of bags to pass on.
“I have handed out about 50 kits so far,” he said, “and I’ve been given the nickname Blanket Boy by the people I’ve met in Bedford.”
Sam, who lives in Putnoe and works as an apprentice project manager, is now hoping more people will support his initiative through physical donations, or via his online GoFundMe.com page.
He said: “I’ve had some fantastic donations sent in, including warm jumpers and hats made by local knitting groups.
“There is a real level of dehumanisation of homeless people. The reality is they are people with interests and hobbies.
“I never saw the Great Gatsby guy again, and I never found out what happened to him. I can only hope he is OK.”
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/OutsideHelp