Slouched on a park bench, sheltering under a sleeping bag after emptying a couple of bottles of vodka was a nightly occurrence for Jerry McFarlane.

For more than 30 years he had long stretches when he was sleeping on the streets battling to survive.

Begging for alcohol, he has been beaten and robbed, but when a saviour stopped to ask if he wanted help, he finally realised enough was enough.

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“I could drink two or three bottle of vodka a day when I was on the streets,” said Jerry. “It was alcohol which led to me becoming homeless in the first place. I had a job, a wife and a family, but I could be stubborn. I never thought for a minute that one day I would end up homeless - you don’t start out that way.

“There would be times when I would get a flat, but then it would lead to eviction and I was back on the streets again. I was sleeping on a bench in Edinburgh when someone came up to me and asked if I wanted to get help and this time I said yes.”

Jerry, originally from Baillieston on the outskirts of Glasgow, credits the volunteer from charity Access Point as being his saviour. He was then put in touch with a project which offered supported living. He has had his own place at the Thorntree Centre part of the Rowan Alba project for the past three years and he says it has saved his life.

“I was in my late 60s and still on the streets,” added Jerry. “If it hadn’t been for this place I don’t think I would be here – I don’t think I could have taken much more.”

“I have now got a place to stay and some stability. I have somewhere to call home and my own key. Thorntree has changed everything for me. It was certainly worth the wait, but it has changed my life.”

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Now that Jerry, 70, is in a better place in his life he can talk about the past and how hard life on the streets was.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and particularly now that we are going through this virus, it must be even worse,” he added. “I would beg for alcohol. It was nothing to drink a few bottles of vodka and I would drink anything to be honest. People got to know you and even knew if you were a good beggar and would steal your booze off you. It is a dangerous life.

“When it is cold and dark and all you have is a sleeping bag or a tent if you are lucky all you can do is try to get through it.

“You have good days and bad days on the streets and people do look out for one another. You just get through it as best you can – it’s called survival.

“I was in Glasgow for a while and there were some places that opened up where you could get something to eat.

“I even ended up in A and E with stitches in my head after being robbed. It was then when I got out of hospital that I thought I have absolutely nowhere to go and that is not a good thing. For me someone asked if I wanted help and it was the right time. You have to want that change to happen.

“It will always be with me though and I would never walk past someone without giving them something to eat. If they were anything like me and were given money it would end up on booze.”

Calling Thorntree Street his home for three years has given Jerry a sense of belonging. It is run by the Rowan Alba charity and offers supported living for 12 men aged 50 plus at the Leith unit. They have support workers on hand, but they don’t try to change the residents but instead work with them and the challenges they face.

This is why founder Helen Carlin has begun a community shares offer in a bid to raise funds to build a second centre to be able to help more people.

Jerry added: “If it wasn’t for this place and the support you get, I really don’t know where I would be. Still on the streets or perhaps even worse. I don’t think I would have got through many more winters.”