Image: The Blackbird (Jay Black) / Flickr

Leamington man launches 56 challenges to help the local homeless

Steve Atherton is marking his 56th birthday with a 56-challenge campaign to raise money for the district’s homeless, which includes walking on fire and appearing in a pantomime.

The campaign, “56 Not Out,” will raise funds for local charity Helping Hands, which runs accommodation and work support schemes, a drop-in centre, soup kitchen, charity shop and events such as a sponsored Sleep Out last November.

Steve, who now lives in Warwick, began the challenge after noticing the number of people sleeping rough while running through Leamington last winter.

He told The Leamington Observer: “What really struck me was that there was a homeless person in a doorway of this expensive looking retirement home.”

“I didn’t sleep all night, I was tearing my hair out. Something needs to change. But I didn’t know what, or how.”

On the challenge, he added: “It’s not just about money but about breaking down boundaries and encouraging people to do little things whether it’s buying a homeless person a coffee or putting coins in a charity money box.”

Not all needy people are homeless; many employed people on low wages can’t make ends meet and don’t qualify for government help and so slip through the net.
Steve Atherton

Anthony Dwyer from Helping Hands commented: “Without volunteers and people like Steve, we couldn’t help all the people we do. We are overwhelmed by Steve’s efforts and compassion to raise awareness in the wider community. We are 100 per cent behind him and really want him to succeed.”

Steve’s first challenge will be to complete the ten kilometre Two Castle run between Warwick and Kenilworth castles — in fancy dress. Others include growing a beard, introducing a band at a major venue, appearing on TV, having an article published in the national press, abseiling down a building, running naked in the snow, a colour run, a blind park run, running through all the counties in the UK, driving a tank, driving a steam-powered vehicle, riding a Harley Davidson and dressing up as a knight.

He also plans to ring the church bells, cook for 56 people and watch the sun rise and set on both the shortest and longest days of the year.

Steve told The Boar that students can help by buying or donating unwanted things in charity shops for the homeless, donating and volunteering at food banks or soup kitchens, organising fundraisers, helping out on his own challenges, or even just buying food or a drink for people on the street.

He added: “Not all needy people are homeless; many employed people on low wages can’t make ends meet and don’t qualify for government help and so slip through the net.”

He hopes that the campaign will also raise money for national homelessness charity, Shelter.


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