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Fresh start for rough sleeper who 'wouldn't see Christmas'

STV News spoke to Dode Reilly when he was living on the streets last winter.

Homelessness: Dode spoke to STV last winter, and again after finding accommodation.
Homelessness: Dode spoke to STV last winter, and again after finding accommodation. STV

A man who slept rough on the streets for years has said he's been given a second chance thanks to a major homelessness fundraising drive.

STV News first came across Dode Reilly on Lothian Road last winter.

He was suffering from agonising ulcers on his legs and told us he had bowel cancer and was HIV positive.

He said he expected to die on the streets before Christmas.

But eight months on, he has his own housing association flat with a support package for his complex medical needs.

A carer comes in to help him four days a week, he's off drugs and has cut back on his drinking habits.

He admitted it's been difficult to adjust to his new life; for the first few weeks he couldn't even face sleeping in his bed due to "culture shock".

He said: "When I was on the street I was giving up, I was just giving up.

"But now I've got something to live for."

Dode said the new accommodation has saved his life and he has stopped using heroin.

He added: "At least I'm off the streets, because that winter would have killed me."

Dode's fortunes dramatically changed after our interview with him sparked shock among viewers and readers.

https://stv.tv/news/features/1402372-big-sleepout-charity-bids-to-change-fortunes-of-homeless/ | default

Social enterprise Social Bite tracked him down and liaised with Wheatley Group and Dunedin Canmore to find accommodation and support, provided by Barony care.

It's hoped more people like Dode can be helped through this "housing first" model, which breaks the cycle of homeless people being forced to sleep rough or in unsuitable hostels.

The £4m raised from last December's Sleep in the Park event in Princes St Gardens has gone towards projects like this, and the new Social Bite village in Granton.

On Tuesday, ambitious plans to expand the fundraising event were unveiled.

On December 8, mass sleepouts will be held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee.

Social Bite aims to attract a total of 12,000 volunteers to raise cash and brave the wintry elements.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1420560-mass-sleepout-to-help-homeless-expands-across-scotland/ | default

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