A man who was found sleeping rough on Grantham College’s sports field last week turned out to be an RAF veteran on a mission to raise awareness of mental health and homelessness by walking around the UK.
After students spotted him sleeping rough last Wednesday, Steve Thomas revealed that after suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he now wanted to use his experience to try and alleviate the stigma around mental health discussions.
After setting off from Wales, he had already completed 400 of his 1400 mile journey by the time he passed through Grantham, on his way to London.
Determined to help those in a similar situation, Steve has been trying to help other homeless people that he meets along the way.
He said: “I have been in that position myself and believed that I wasn’t worthy of being in the world but realised that I need to change this.”
Steve is attempting to walk a minimum of 20 miles a day so that he can be home for his birthday on 21 February.
But his journey so far has been far from easy – he was close to hypothermia at one point which sent him delirious but he kept going.
Steve added: “A fire goes off in you. I just needed to focus on the next ten steps in front of me.”
Having already lost 1.5 stone over the 400 miles that he has completed so far, Steve has been surviving on ration packs, mug shots and generous meal donations from people he has met along the way.
He said: “I didn’t realise I would get so many people following my journey and being so kind to me. Some have even walked part of the way with me.”
After his journey comes to an end, Steve has been invited to run a survival school by the Veterans channel, which in turn, funds therapy for veterans. Alongside this, he would like to visit camps, schools and organisations to talk about his journey. He is also hoping to write a children’s book which will feature Dillon – a knitted character given to him by someone he met along the way.
Grantham College’s Marketing Manager, Jaz Abeysekera who interviewed Steve says: “Steve’s story was so moving and inspirational. I’m really glad that it was the college field that he ended up sleeping on so that I got the chance to meet him.
“We all go about our everyday lives avoiding people and looking down at our phones but we don’t realise what’s going on in front of us and that perhaps by speaking to one stranger, you might make their day.”
Steve is raising money for Walking with the Wounded, which is the charity that helped him through his personal battles.
You can follow Steve’s journey and donate on his facebook page: www.facebook.com/roughingitforourheroes/?ref=br_tf