A formerly homeless man who volunteered to help other rough sleepers has received special recognition from the mayor.

Andrew (Andy) White put in an astonishing 474 hours volunteering with the SPEAR homelessness group in the last year after they helped him during his time on the streets.

In recognition of his efforts, Andy was one of those celebrated in the Kingston Mayor's Community Awards recently, receiving the Covid Award for "outstanding service to the Royal Borough during the coronavirus pandemic".

Formerly a successful builder, Andy was forced to flee a "violent and abusive" homelife and eventually ended up on the streets when sofa surfing with his friends became untenable.

The pressures and hardships of rough sleeping led him down a dark park and contemplating suicide, but Andy was helped by SPEAR and managed to turn a corner after they assigned him a case worker and got him a place at one of their group-run hostels.

Rebuilding his life one step at a time, Andy said he was grateful to SPEAR and wanted to give something back.

Andy previously worked to become a Peer Mentor Volunteer with the group, but his activism with them in Kingston ramped up when Covid hit.

The group said he had been "helping week-in-week-out with processing food donations and became a spokesperson for SPEAR in an emergency appeal on Global’s national radio stations".

On receiving his award, Andy said:

"I’ve come a long way personally, but I wouldn’t have been able to without SPEAR.

"The people are so committed and the job they do is just inspiring, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of SPEAR. I hope I can continue to be involved. Thank you very much."

Mayor Cllr Margaret Thompson added her praise for Andy during the ceremony:

"Using your own difficult experiences shows real generosity of spirit, which is brilliant and amazing.

"You have made such a real difference to other people’s lives."

Meanwhile volunteer Kas, who was previously homeless, was also recognized with an award in recent days, receiving the UK Youth Inspiring Hope Young Person Award among over 350 nominees.

The group described Kas's "tireless work supporting and uplifting residents in their young persons’ hostel throughout the pandemic".

"We at SPEAR are so proud of Kas’s win. It is recognition of Kas’s approach to life – always looking for ways to raise up those around her and finding the positives in difficult situations.

"She is a vital part of the Springboard programme and, as part of the client steering group, is helping to shape the programme for participants to come."

Despite previous government support to shelter homeless people during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, that policy was reduced and data suggested many people have been made homeless during coronavirus in the UK.

In London, official data suggested a 23 per cent rise in homelessness in the third quarter of the 2020/21 financial year.