A 49-year-old who will back in his home town next month to run a half marathon has spoken about what it was like to be homeless.

Paul Scanlon will be taking on the 35th Stevenage Half Marathon on Sunday, November 3, for homeless charity Shelter.

He has only ever spoken about being homeless to his family, but has decided to share his story to raise awareness.

"In a noisy and bustling train station in the heart of London hundreds of people are rushing about desperately trying to get wherever their destination is about to take them," said Paul.

"We are in the mid 1980s and If you had looked closely really closely you would have seen me, a much younger Paul, sat on a bench next to the cafe.

"I wasn't waiting for a train, I was sat there on that bench because, like many people are today, I had nowhere to go - I was homeless.

"The reasons for my homelessness was no part made through any fault of my wonderful family or indeed friends back home at that time, it wasn't even my own fault - it was a fault of circumstance.

"I recall sitting on that bench for what must have seemed hours, but in truth it was probably no more than 15 minutes, when a complete stranger came out of the cafe to hand me a hot drink.

"I lept to my feet and said 'what are you doing'? The lady stood there and said with a sympathetic smile: 'I can see your homeless, here, take a hot drink'.

"Full of embarrassment and shame I said 'I'm not homeless, I'm waiting for a train'. I quickly walked away and out of the station, never to return.

"I knew then I had to change my life around. I knew had to somehow get back on track, whatever it took.

"But 'the how' was going to be the issue - I had no job, no money, no food, and a bed in a church hall for the night if I got there in time.

"The hall would need to be clear for the day's activities so they would ferry us on a minibus and drop us at any train station you so wished for.

"I opted for Victoria one particular morning but, as I was about to step out of the bus, the driver said to me: 'Oi Paul, here's some food and some cash. Go do something, go make something of yourself, your way too young to be here and I hope you do well.'

"With that I stood at the side of the road with a bag of freshly-made rolls, fruit and crisps. The bus was gone, but when I opened my hand there was a £20 note inside. I couldn't remember the last time I had money, and I wasn't going to waste it.

"I walked into the coach station and asked for a ticket to Cardiff. I thought I could make a life for myself in north Wales - I went there on a school trip when I was 10 - and I thought going to the capital city and then getting a connection to Llandudno was a great idea.

"Arriving at Cardiff I learned there was no such connection and again I found myself homeless - but this time in Wales."

After a night in a B&B and his remaining money dwindling, Paul went to the social security offices and declared himself homesless.

"I was told after a while about the Salvation Army so I went there and was given a shared room," he said.

"After several weeks I found I liked it in Cardiff and all thoughts of north Wales long disappeared. But I couldn't stay in the hostel forever - I needed to get a job.

"I set about walking the streets, going into shops asking and asking for work. One day I was given the opportunity to start work for a supermarket - that's no longer around - and was so proud and pleased with myself.

"I had a job, a place to stay and now some real prospects - was I building my future?"

Paul's emphatic answer is yes - as he puts it he now has a beautiful wife who he has been with for more than 26 years, two wonderful daughters, one amazing grandson and supportive family and friends - which he could only have dreamed of years ago.

On Shelter, he added: "I never thought I'd ever share my story, but I hope it goes someway to explain why fundraising for Shelter is so important to me.

"Nobody should have to go through what a young Paul went through and with your help we can help stop this happening."

To sponsor Paul who, after taking on the two-lap 13.1-mile course in Stevenage which includes Fairlands Valley Park will be running the London Landmarks Half Marathon with his daughter Kirsty in March next year, visit justgiving.com/dadand1stdaughter.

It's not too late to enter the Stevenage Half Marathon - which costs £26 or £24 for running club members - just visit activetrainingworld.co.uk/events/2019/11/03/Stevenagehalf.