WHEN homeless man Russell Allen was doused with water while sleeping outside a shop last Christmas it caused a national outcry and led to an apology from one of the UK’s top high street retailers.
But almost a year on from the incident outside Debenhams, in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, the 30-year-old has revealed how the callous soaking has led to one of the biggest changes in his life.
Russell – who has since converted to Islam – is now using his faith to give back to the needy by cooking up food in the winter months and now has an ambition of setting up his own charity.
And the selfless Muslim is doing all of this while still living rough on the streets of the city.
He said: ‘I won’t lie. When the Debenhams incident happened I was gutted. But actually it’s helped to totally change my life.
‘Since then I have found my religion. That is helping my mental state, physically and emotionally.
Doing charity work and good deeds is like me taking a couple of grams of cocaine – it’s addictive and it gives you such a highRussell Allen
‘I have just gone from strength to strength and feel positive. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a couple of bad days and breakdowns but things are looking up for me.’
Russell converted to Islam in April. Since then he has become hooked on giving back to the community, which supported him during his time of need.
He has already worked on charity projects providing aid to refugees and children in war-torn countries like Syria.
But now his focus is on helping those close to his heart – the homeless on the streets of Portsmouth.
And his ambitions have been backed by a number of people, including fellow Muslims, who have donated food for Russell to hand out to the city’s needy.
Cycling around Portsmouth with his trusty pet dog, Lexie, he has already delivered scores of hot meals to the homeless – something he has pledged to continue doing throughout the winter months.
‘Doing charity work and good deeds is like me taking a couple of grams of cocaine – it’s addictive and it gives you such a high,’ he said.
Russell’s efforts come as the city continues to do its own work to improve the situation for homeless people.
There are up to 60 people sleeping rough on Portsmouth’s streets every night, recent figures claimed, with many more living in the city without a permanent residence.
While homelessness in neighbouring Gosport has also ballooned, with 533 people in the borough now living without a home, charity Shelter has said.
Russell believes the way to tackling the problem is in communities ‘uniting together’ as one.
He is now appealing for help in starting his charity.
Those with advice can email firstname.lastname@example.org