FOR many, Christmas is a time of giving; however, for Charles Simpson, a former homeless man, giving to the less fortunate is an everyday thing.
The St Ann resident has made it his duty to care for persons living on the streets of Ocho Rios and has been offering the homeless meals and toiletries for two years now. Simpson, who lived on the streets for 10 years, is passionate about feeding the homeless, having been there, done that.
Simpson said he grew up in state care in Kingston and ended up on the streets as a teenager. After four days without food, he related, hunger drove him to steal a wedding cake to survive. It was then that he pledged that if he were to leave the streets he would help the homeless.
"I had made a pledge that if I leave the street, if it is only 10 street people I am going to feed twice a day," Simpson told Jamaica Observer.
Since 2010, Simpson has been living up to that pledge. The 68-year-old man said he started by feeding 18 persons. That number has grown; however, due to financial constraints he has had to reduce the number of persons he offers meals. He also supplies them with items of clothing when possible.
"Up to March of this year, I was feeding 57 persons," he said. But he had since had to cut the numbers significantly, down to 25 persons.
So in touch is he with the homeless that Simpson not only knows them by their names, but knows where to find them. They too are familiar with him and as soon as he is seen they prepare themselves to receive a hot meal and or pastry.
Simpson worked as a gardener and watchman, getting himself off the streets of Kingston. Although not wealthy, he decided to start assisting those who find themselves in the position he was once in.
He started out without support, purchasing items, preparing the meals and then distributing them all by himself. However, with illness and financial constraints, he had to seek help to distribute the meals which he still prepares by himself.
Simpson has had two strokes, the more recent in early November which saw him hospitalised for several weeks.
According to him, he wants to continue to help the homeless and would like the support of more businesses in the town. He praises attorney-at-law Linton Gordon, Alif Haberdashery, Golden Loaf Bakery, Coast Line Chicken and Meats and Nuffa Variety for supporting him so far.
David Bailey, who has been homeless for about seven years, was among those who expressed their appreciation for Simpson's efforts when he turned up with their meals on December 28.
"Mi glad for it," he told the Observer.
Another homeless man, Ransford Brown, was also happy for the meal. "Mi feel good still," he said.
Brown, 28, said he had been living in the streets for 10 years now as he and his family "can't get along".