Tim Ward is better known to townspeople as ‘Tim the Tramp’ and usually dwells in the Cloisters, the covered walkway between Eden Walk and Church Street.
But this Christmas, he will be staying at the local Travelodge, all expenses paid, thanks to Cloisters-based hairdresser Paige Henderson who led a fundraiser to pay for his break.
Mr Ward, who is 65, told the Courier: “She’s been bloody wonderful. I am chuffed to bits.”
Ms Henderson, 19, works at The Cutwalk hairdressers and along with colleagues has been giving Mr Ward a helping hand during the cold weather – including a free haircut and beard-trim. She has promised Mr Ward that she will meet him at the Travelodge, Wheatfield Way, to eat Christmas dinner with him so that he is not surrounded by unfamiliar faces.
“I met Tim about two months ago, when he fell over and was injured and I helped the ambulance find where he was,” she said. “Then he had to go into hospital again, he had something wrong with his pancreas and I started keeping an eye open to see he was OK.
“The idea for the hotel break happened when someone from Surbiton posted on Facebook that she had given Tim £2 and he had handed her a Christmas card in return. She was really touched, and we thought it would be nice to do something for Tim.
“It’s not clear how much money has been raised yet, and we’re not sure about the cost of the room because obviously we can’t book far in advance, but there is enough for at least three nights. Anything left over will go to a charity that helps people on the streets.”
Mr Ward is on Kingston Council’s accommodation register but is a low priority because he has no local family or other connections.
He was born and raised in Manchester but drifted to London and slept in the West End for some years before ending up in Kingston.
He said: “I went downhill and became homeless when I lost my mum 40-odd years ago. I still cry for her every night and say a little prayer. You only ever have one mother and I can’t wait to be back with her again. I’d give anything to see her walking toward me right now.
“I love it here. People are so nice. It’s not like the rest of London at all. There’s a local police officer called Sally and she always checks up on me to see I’m OK. I have to keep on my toes when the local nightclubs are chucking out early in the morning. Sometimes I get harassed. You do get the odd bastard but you get them everywhere.”
Mr Ward, who is a regular church-goer, added: “Most people are good at heart really.”