A FORMER addict and homeless man has created a free gym for those in need after turning his life around.
Tom Mawyer, from Chichester, a former offender, said now he has changed his life, he wants to pull people out of the same situation he was in.
St Pancras Church in the city centre was a place that helped Tom change. He said: “When I was on the streets, I just felt I couldn’t get a chance, there was nothing for me to do and nobody I could get trust from.
“People would give me money and they had guilt in their eyes. It was generous but it wasn’t the help I needed. I went to the church and found father and mother figures, and that was what I needed.”
Tom has worked with a friend, Caroline Taylor, who he met at Grit Gym to set up a gym at St Pancras Hall in Tozer Way, which is free for anybody on benefits, homeless or just in need.
Caroline said: “I met Tom about five years ago at Grit Gym. He was lost and I helped him. We used to go for coffees and he told me he had a vision to help people but he wasn’t helping himself.
“After some head space, Tom and I met again and we started up this project. I teach Animal Flow, which was created by Mike Fitch in America. It’s a ground-based movement which I’ve been doing for around five years and it’s changed my life.”
The free gym and open centre offers people exercise, massage and advice and aims to help get people into the community. Tom said he was trying to get to the grassroots of things and not just talk about it, but do it.
Cllr Christopher Spink and Cllr Jane Kilby, from Chichester City Council, are also helping to run breakfast clubs which are free to all, not just the homeless.
St Pancras Church has been running them for three years and other churches in the area for around six months as part of City Heart.
Cllr Spink and Cllr Kilby visit twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, to help with issues arising as often people don’t always want to go to the council offices.
Cllr Spink said: “Tom is an asset to the church and he and all the volunteers at St Pancras make us feel really welcome.
“We really enjoy the bond we have created and hope to continue this its a absolute pleasure to help when we can.”
Tom said: “You have to change the situation of your heart. You can’t just give people a house because they will take their problems with them.
“The church helps the soul and this project helps the mind and the body.”
Anybody interested in going to the open centre, gym or breakfast clubs can contact the Four Streets Project or St Pancras Church.