Coronavirus: Northampton rough sleeper moves into flat after 15 years on streets

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Image caption,
George Murray spends evenings in his flat watching TV and has become "a bit of a Star Trek fan"

A man who spent 15 years sleeping rough has moved into his own flat after the coronavirus pandemic persuaded him to leave the streets.

George Murray initially took advantage of a council scheme to get homeless people into hotels.

The 49-year-old, from Northampton, now spends evenings watching TV in his own "brilliant" flat.

He said: "I love it. Just to have the creature comforts. I've become a bit of a Star Trek fan."

When the country entered lockdown, councils in England were given £3.2m to provide emergency shelter for rough sleepers as part of the Everyone In project.

In Northampton, more than 140 people spent at least one night in one of two hotels with almost 80 - including Mr Murray - helped into settled housing.

Image source, Northampton Borough Council
Image caption,
Amanda Wilson, right, helped more than 100 rough sleepers settle into hotel accommodation

Mr Murray, who said he showed promise as a youth footballer and "travelled around the country with Manchester United", said he knew he had to get off the streets because of the "very difficult time" created by Covid-19.

It was still a surprise to some when he turned up at one of the hotels.

Northampton Borough Council street service co-ordinator Amanda Wilson said Mr Murray, who stayed on the streets during the 'Beast from the East' cold snap in 2018, "would never go into the town shelter or night shelter".

"When he walked in to the hotel, everyone went 'no way'. It was brilliant," she said.

Image source, Northampton Borough Council
Image caption,
Another homeless hotel user drew this picture

Once in the hotel he had access to a shower and three meals a day.

Outreach workers got him a bank account, benefits and a prescription to combat his drug addiction.

"Life was fantastic in the hotel," Mr Murray said. "People were very supportive."

Media caption,
Project 16:15 delivered 'breakfast in bed' to George Murray

Stan Robertson, who has known Mr Murray for three years as his charity Project 16:15 delivers breakfast to rough sleepers, said: "George was typical of what we see on the streets of people who accept all they have is all they are worth.

"He has been able to take on a sense of 'I'm worth more, I'm worth that room, that offer to get off the streets'.

"It's been amazing."

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