A once homeless Northampton man has turned a life of crime around to set up a charity aimed at helping others avoid the mistakes he made.
Two years ago, 21-year-old Daniel Fortune found himself on the brink of prison having received a 12-month suspended sentence.
He was hanging round with ‘the wrong crowd’, he said, stealing and vandalising around London where he grew up. But by the age of 19, his parents had had enough and told him to leave the family home.
Now living at the Mayday Trust in Northampton, football-loving Daniel is setting up Helping Hands Together, a volunteer-led charity aimed at giving one-to-one advice to people who are heading towards a life of crime, self harm and drugs, from the people who have been there.
He said: “This is basically for people who feel they have got nowhere to go.
“If you have enough determination and willpower, with the right people around you, there is always a way to turn things around.”
Daniel and his girlfriend, Lara Flynn, 23, of Milton Keynes, have set up www. facebook.com/HelpingHands TogetherUK, for people to get in touch with them. It already has 195 ‘likes’.
Daniel, who played football for England in the Homeless World Cup, is only taking on volunteers who have first- hand experience of the subject they are helping a person with. “Often with support groups the person they are speaking to hasn’t gone through the same experiences,” he said.
“If we can say we have been down that path, we know where you are coming from, we can build up a better rapport.”
Lara said the emphasis of the charity was on ‘intervention’, aiming to help stop people turning to drink, drugs and crime. The couple are seeking funding from The Princes Trust for the venture. All one-to-one meetings, they said, would be risk assessed first.
Daniel said he only realised he was part of a wrong crowd when it was too late.
“I have ADHD and Aspergers,” he said. “I have this constant need to please people. I would steal something from a shop because I thought it would make them like me.” But the 21-year-old said he realised his former crowd were not true friends when none turned up to a court case which could have seen him jailed in 2011. Now reformed, he is training to be a social worker and said his relationship with his parents was ‘better than ever’.