A formerly homeless man who spent five years in a wood near Kingston has moved in with a charity.

Malcolm was a gardener in Farnborough for 25 years, but found it hard to balance work with family life.

He said: “I loved the job and I still love tending to gardens now. It wasn’t until I got married that my life became increasingly unsettled. 

"After a long time trying to stay in the marriage, I decided to leave for good. Without a word to anyone, not even family, I packed up and left. I went missing for 10 years.”

Five of those years were spent caring for the gardens at a community centre for the elderly near the woods where Malcolm was staying.

But after hearing about Emmaus, a group of communities for homeless people that provides them with a home and work, he went to an interview in Greenwich and moved in almost immediately.

Since then, Malcolm said his life has turned around.

“One of the best things Emmaus encouraged me to do was get in touch with my sister. It had been a decade since I’d last seen her, and in that time she had been to all of the Salvation Army hostels in the South trying to find me; I think she assumed I was dead,” he said.

“I wrote her a letter once I was settled in Greenwich and she phoned me up, in floods of tears. We now have a great relationship again.”

Malcolm lives with 32 other formerly homeless people in the centre, and organisers hope to provide meaningful work and an opportunity to regain self-esteem.

He said: “My day-to-day involves working in the shop or driving the vans, I’m not fussy what jobs are given to me as long as I’m working. In my spare time, I enjoy doing sponsored walks for other homeless charities. My recent walk through London raised almost £300 for Street Souls – not bad for a man in his sixties!

“I’d like the people who donate to Emmaus to know that I am grateful for being given a second chance at life. I have a lovely room, I am able to work and I can still lead an active social life – I love it here - my life is officially back on track.”