The homeless man who provided the inspiration for a Leyland student to raise £45,000 has spoken out for the first time – and revealed he is still living on the streets.
The man known as ‘Robbie’ hit the headlines almost a year ago when he offered student Dominique Harrison-Bentzen his last £3 for her to get a taxi home after losing her bank card.
Following the act of kindness in November 2014, the 22-year-old, who was crowned Miss Preston in April, went on to raise the huge sum of money in a viral campaign to help ‘Robbie’ and other homeless people.
But Robbie, real name John Robinson, has now spoken out, saying that he has gained nothing from the campaign.
“I gave Dominique the money because it was the right thing to do,” said Robbie, who has been sleeping rough on and off for 30 years. “No matter what your circumstances, there’s always right thing to do and I always try to do what is in my heart. I’m a very private person and I didn’t want all of this fuss. All I’ve ever wanted was a flat so I can get work as a builder.”
Dominique handed over the money to the Foxton Centre, a business that works with rough sleepers in Preston, earlier this year with guarantees that it would not only go to many other homeless Preston people but specifically Robbie who was the catalyst for the campaign.
Fifty five-year-old Robbie explains how since that fateful day he has been to prison, lost his best friend and has less to his name than he did before.
“I’m a very private person and I didn’t want all of this fuss. All I’ve ever wanted was a flat so I can get work as a builder.”
After the fundraising campaign, the Foxton Centre put Robbie and his best friend Ade Wayne in the Holiday Inn hotel in Preston for a week as well giving him a Primark card for clothes and mobile phone to help him stay in contact with them.
I’ve been on the street a long time in and out of family and friends’ houses but I didn’t want to burden them.John Robinson
Speaking very honestly, Robbie explains that when he met Dominique he was serving the remaining year of probation following a five year jail sentence for assault and it was about this time things went downhill.
“The media went absolutely mental after I met Dominique. We were meeting every day but when the amount of money raised got really big my probation service got worried about my safety and asked me to move to a hostel in Carlisle, Cumbria, which I didn’t want to do.”
Robbie says he has a big family in Preston and was asked to move two days before Christmas which was the reason he rejected the move. It was soon after this that he was taken back to jail to serve the last six months of his jail term for what he believes was a violation of his probation.
He says he watched Dominique speak about the money helping the homeless from a prison television and when he finished his sentence, he came out to the news he had lost an old and dear friend.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, Robbie explains that his friend Ade had gone missing and has not been seen for months.
“I’ve been on the street a long time in and out of family and friends’ houses but I didn’t want to burden them. So Ade and me have been on the streets together, looked after each other and been best friends for years. It’s been months and nobody has seen him, I can only presume he is dead somewhere and I can’t help feeling if I hadn’t started all this media attention Ade would still be alive because I could’ve looked after him.”
Robbie says he now wants to get in touch with the Foxton Centre and use some of the money Dominique raised for him to get a flat but admits: “I’m very bad at asking for help”.
The Foxton Centre has opened its doors to Robbie saying there is money available specifically for him.
“I’m going to get in touch with them because I’d love a place to live,” he said. “I was devastated when I was in prison and with Ade gone I want to get off the streets and to start my life.”
Here are more stories on last year’s campaign to help Robbie: