Network Rail signaller Chris Conway is known in his hometown of Blackpool as the 'big man with the big heart' for his efforts helping the homeless - but now he's aiming to go national.
Chris is a relief signaller for Network Rail at Bamber Bridge, near Preston, with a passion for helping people living on the streets.
When he’s not signalling trains he can be found leading a team of volunteers who scour the streets of Blackpool looking for rough sleepers.
He started his Thursday night ‘community watch’ street walks last year. Already he has up to 40 volunteers in tow, all decked out in Chris’ ‘United Blackpool' hoodies.
The twenty-five-year-old said: “From a young age, about five or six, I remember going into Blackpool and being upset when I saw homeless people. Helping the homeless is always something I’ve been passionate about.”
Since starting his street walks, Chris has helped get 12 homeless people off the streets and into rented accommodation.
He works with Blackpool charity Amazing Graze, running the local soup kitchen on Friday nights, but Chris’ ambitions go beyond the Fylde peninsula.
Chris said: “I want to start a national ‘random acts of kindness’ campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to break the stigma around homelessness. It’s easy to just dismiss or ignore homeless people, seeing them as druggies who’ve ended up on the streets because of addiction.
“But ask yourself this: ‘What came first: the homelessness or the drug abuse? In almost all cases addiction results from homelessness, not vice versa. Feeling cold, scared, hungry, uncomfortable, unnoticed and unloved day after day is enough to make anyone consider drugs.
“I want to change the way homeless people are viewed. They are just like you or me but, for whatever reason, they’ve ended up on the streets. The positive impact of acknowledging homeless people, by giving them a smile or asking how they are, cannot be underestimated.”
If you want more information on how you can get involved with Chris’ support work, you can email him directly – Christopher.Conway2@networkrail.co.uk, or you can visit the United Blackpool Facebook Page or follow United Blackpool on Instagram.