Two once-homeless gardeners nominated as Changing Lives Champions

Two formerly homeless gardeners have been shortlisted by national homelessness charity Crisis for a Crisis/Barclays Changing Lives Champions Award. The scheme helps homeless people back into education, training and employment. The award ceremony will be held in London on 19 October.

Twelve people have been nominated for an award. Two of this year's finalists are gardeners. Malcolm Ricks, 55, from Bath, worked as a self-employed tree surgeon for many years before becoming homeless. He lived rough for several weeks and spent Christmas Day on the streets of Bath.

He then moved into a local hostel and volunteered for a charity gardening group. Ricks was soon inundated with gardening requests from the local community. He received a grant from Crisis, which has helped him to set up his own gardening business.

He said: "I'm feeling very focused and ambitious. Being homeless does weaken you but I now work in some lovely houses and gardens and I'm really enjoying life."

Alastair Kirkhope, 56, from Kelso, Roxburghshire, has been shortlisted in the long-term achiever category. He worked as an agronomist until 1995 when he lost his job, which led him to start drinking and lose his house and driving licence.

He said: "I made a conscious decision to change my life around and I don't regret one thing."

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