Homeless, addicted to drugs, and with nowhere to turn – now the clients of St Giles Trust are becoming mentors to help others fight poverty, addiction and turn their lives around.

St Giles Trust have sites all over the UK, has helped countless people since its inception in 1962, and is now displaying how funding from the National Lottery has helped people change their lives by using expertise and real-life past experiences to empower people to progress towards positive futures.

One such person is Jamie McMillan from Clackmannanshire, Scotland, whose tough upbringing in a volatile household led her to drug addiction and becoming homeless at 15 years old.

Jamie said: “I was a traumatised teenager and really didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, and I found myself using drugs and other outlets for that trauma, anger and frustration that I felt.

Hillingdon Times: Jamie McMillan has turned her life around after facing homelessness throughout her lifeJamie McMillan has turned her life around after facing homelessness throughout her life

“I’ve been homeless several times, but I found recovery for addiction and the last three years really focussing on that and getting my education back and trying to come back from the trauma that I experienced as a child and a young adult.

“I now use my lived experience of addiction, homelessness, childhood trauma to support others who are on a similar journey to mine.”

Another is Raymond Longville, who is now a caseworker for St Giles Trust.

Raymond said: “I work with clients who are ex-offenders who are homeless. 

“My life story is very chequered – I’ve sold drugs, done credit card fraud, I was a pickpocket, but it was survival. I’ve been homeless, but that’s all behind me as I’m studying and want to be a lecturer.

“Because I’ve got lived experience of substance abuse, and being in trouble with the police, my clients find it a lot easier to relate to me because they understand where I’m coming from.

“I want to work together with them so they can get what they want out of St Giles – that’s what we do. You build a relationship; you build a bond. The most rewarding job I’ve done is working for St Giles.

“The National Lottery is so important to projects like the one I’m working on because it’s helping people to get their lives sorted and get themselves off the ground. 

“It’s giving people jobs for one, and then the people that are getting the jobs are going out there and they’re helping people who can’t help themselves and it’s helping to get off substances. 

“I wish and I hope to believe that The National Lottery keeps on investing its money and funding St Giles because we’re doing such a great job out here.”

Hillingdon Times: Raymond Longville uses his lived experiences to help other people who have been battling with homelessnessRaymond Longville uses his lived experiences to help other people who have been battling with homelessness

Strictly Come Dancing star Neil Jones, who struggled with homelessness as a teenager, is highlighting the incredible support National Lottery-funded homeless projects have provided to people all over the UK during the last 10 years.

The 31-year-old professional dancer is now a regular fixture on screens across the UK, but just a few years ago he was in a very different position and, for a brief time, he even found himself sleeping rough on the streets.

With Christmas fast approaching, Neil is helping to highlight the extensive funding and support The National Lottery has provided to homelessness projects over the last decade.

Since 2010, more than half a billion pounds (over £576 million) has been awarded to more than 3,000 projects that involve or support homeless people or help tackle homelessness throughout the UK.

Jones said: “With winter upon us and Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time of year to spare a thought for those who don’t have a home to go to or have somewhere safe, comfortable and warm to sleep over the festive period.

“It’s tough to think about the difficult things they’re going through at this time of year because it’s such a time of joy for most of us, but it’s important to recognise that there are so many people out there who really do need our help.

Hillingdon Times: Strictly star Neil Jones has now shared his experiences with homelessness as a teenagerStrictly star Neil Jones has now shared his experiences with homelessness as a teenager

“Thankfully, there are countless incredible charities and organisations doing some really incredible work supporting homeless people across the UK with National Lottery funding.”

The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, alone has awarded more than 600 grants worth around £80 million to projects that involve homeless people since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to provide much-needed funding to incredible organisations that are making an important difference to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

“Whether supporting people experiencing homelessness to improve prospects for employment, supporting with mental health or providing a safe place where people can build their confidence and self-esteem, dedicated groups and their volunteers are working tirelessly with the homeless community, so that they are better able to overcome challenges and hopefully go on to prosper and thrive.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps charities and organisations which support homeless people in our communities. To find out more about National Lottery funding go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding.