Meet James Anderson, also known as ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’, who is raising £250,000 to build a community hub to help homeless people.
James was homeless himself for two years and since getting off the streets has been aiding hundreds of needy customers by fixing their boilers and giving out food packages for free.
Now James is growing his Community Interest company, DEPHER, by building a new centre in Burnley.
The hub would get homeless people off the streets and teach them life skills like cooking, cleaning and how to pay bills.
James moved from Liverpool to London when he was 18 and soon found himself living on the streets.
‘It was a terrible experience,’ he says.
‘I got assaulted, spat at, beaten up and nearly raped. I would not wish anything like that to happen to anyone.
‘I got my second chance when two strangers offered to help me. A couple called Beryl and Gordon, who lived near Chipping Sodbury, converted their garage and got me a job in logistics.
‘I lived with them for eight months. I was earning £300 a week packing palettes to go to supermarkets and I thought I was the king of England.’
James then moved back up north, got married and had a son. When the child sadly died from a heart defect aged only 16 weeks, James made himself a promise to become a ‘better man’.
It was then that James founded DEPHER and began doing free plumbing and repair work for the vulnerable, first in Burnley and then all over the country.
Since the Covid pandemic began early in 2020, James has helped those on the verge of bankruptcy with everything from food deliveries and energy bills to bailiff payments and funeral costs.
He has also started food banks, arranged parties for the children of furloughed parents and helped supply the NHS and nursing homes with invaluable PPE.
James, who is a father of two, only takes a salary of £168 per week, as he says ‘that’s all I need to live off’.
The community hub will be converted from a large former retail outlet and will be able to accommodate ten homeless people at a time, in three-month stints. It will also house a training facility.
James has so far raised £300,000 for the hub, but £250,000 more is needed.
‘We wouldn’t just give them a bed, but support them with opportunities, education and a chance at qualifications.
James says the centre ‘would mean a new life for so many people.
‘The training centre would teach them the basics of home economics including how to cook, clean, pay bills and DIY maintenance. It’s a stepping stone for a new life.’
In 2019, James hit the headlines for refusing to take payment from a 91-year-old who was suffering from acute leukaemia.
He wrote: ‘No charge for this lady under any circumstances. We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible.’
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