Meet homeless Richard Normoyle - a one man band whose mission is to clean up Bedford.
Richard is currently working on the grounds around the Salvation Army base in Commercial Road, clearing flower beds and bushes of rubbish including drugs paraphanalia.
He’s picked up bottles, cans and discarded drugs needles - transforming the area, next to the newly opened Riverside North development, with his gardening skills.
He takes a lot pride in his work, attracting the attention of passers-by who pat him on the back in recongition of his work.
He said: “Litter is a real problem around here with dirty needles in the bushes and bottles and cans. I just thought it needed clearing up and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“I even use my own tools and intend to plant some flowers to make it look even nicer.”
Richard, a regular volunteer for the Salvation Army, has been homeless for around 20 years. As a former drug addict he has found it tough and admits any money he received went to his dealers.
But he’s now found a purpose and hopes to turn his life around.
He said: “I’ve now got something to get up for. I really enjoy what I’m doing. It’s hard graft but it gives me a lot of pleasure. I now get up at 6am at the Night Shelter in Clarendon Road. I shower and am I’m out working.
“I’m cleaning up the streets and trying to tidy up Bedford. There are 46 bags of leaves and rubbish that I’ve collected in Warwick Avenue. I’ve notified the council and am still waitiing for them to be picked up. It would take four council workers all day to do what I’ve done in a couple of hours getting this area sorted.”
Richard explained that he became homeless due to mental illness and a personality disorder.
“I couldn’t work because of my personality disorder and then got into drugs, so all my money went on my drug addiction. It was a downward spiral. But things are better now. I’m off the drugs and I’m able to spend my money on clothes and looking after myself.
“I’ve now got something to get up for and working is better than anything. People appreciate what I do. I’m doing a good job and I’ve got another regular job cleaning a pub garden.
“It’s nice to stand back and see what you’ve done.”
Darran Hay, runs workshops at The Salvation Army for Hart Learning & Development, which helps young people into work or apprenticeships.
He said: “I just want to applaud the fantastic work Richard has done. Lots of people have been saying thank you and patting him on the back. And motorists have even been blowing their horns as they pass by.
“We always hear lots of negative stories about the homeless but this is a good positive story about someone who is trying to get his life on track.
“The grounds round here were an eyesore. I’ve got a lot of respect for the old boy. He deserves recognition.”
Richard has been ‘living on the streets’ and visiting the Night Shelter regularly but is now looking forward to moving into shared accommodation provided by a housing association.
“I just want to keeping doing this, he said. “It means such a lot to me and my pride.”