Northamptonshire pub clubs together to get homeless man off the streets for Christmas

Martin Kirby, Andrew McGarry and David Cooper outside the Brave Old Oak
Martin Kirby, Andrew McGarry and David Cooper outside the Brave Old Oak

A once homeless ex-serviceman is set for a Christmas he will never forget - after regulars at a Northamptonshire pub clubbed together to get him off the streets.

Big Issue seller Andrew McGarry, 48, had been sleeping rough - sometimes in a tent and sometimes in temporary accommodation - for nearly seven months after his benefits payments were stopped around May of this year.

But this Christmas he will be safely housed in a new rented bedsit in Towcester, after regulars at a the Brave Old Oak on Watling Street, launched a campaign to help him.

Not only did landlord David Cooper pay for Mr McGarry’s £200 deposit on his new flat, but his customers then held a Facebook whip-round to donate the former soldier items to furnish it, from a new cooker to sheets and curtains.

Mr McGarry said he was overwhelmed by the response from the public.

He said: “I feel like a big kid again, It’s like I used to feel when I was a 12-year-old at Christmas.

“I can only say a massive thank you to the people of Towcester - I just can’t get my head round it.”

Mr McGarry, originally from Kettering, moved to Great Yarmouth some years ago to get more work on building sites.

But with the faltering housing market he struggled for a job. Seven months ago, while living in a bed and breakfast, his state benefits were cut, after what he describes as a ‘dispute’ with his Job Centre Plus officer.

He had gone from well paid jobs to being penniless in a matter of months and soon moved to Northampton, where he began to sell the Big Issue on the corner of Fish Street.

On the recommendation of a friend, three months ago he visited Towcester for a day and stopped by the Brave Old Oak for a cup of tea.

Landlord David Cooper was so taken by Mr McGarry’s plight, he offered him a room upstairs at a discounted price and offered to do washing.

After stumping up the deposit for the homeless man’s new flat, Mr Cooper and regular Martin Kirby launched an appeal to furnish the new bedsit on Facebook.

“People started coming in and donating sheets, curtains, a toaster, a cooker, we got him a little microwave, it was amazing.” Mr Cooper said.

Mr McGarry, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s with the Royal Fusiliers, says he will carry on selling the Big Issue to keep up the payment on the bedsit.

“People who see me in the town are encouraged by buying a copy form me because they know I’m going to put the money to good use.

“I get all sorts of offers too - people ask me if I could do a bit of gardening and odd jobs - so I might do a bit more of that in the new year too.”