Vincent Gee was just 15 years old when he found himself living on the streets.
He had suffered years of physical abuse from both his parents – including being branded with a red hot poker for arriving home late one evening.
After being expelled from school he was thrown out of the family home and forced to spend the remainder of his teenage years foraging the streets to try to survive another day.
He described the period as the ‘hardest years of his life’.
Fast forward four decades and Vincent, known as Vinny, is now setting his sights on campaigning to tackle the growing issue of homelessness throughout the whole country,
He believes more must be done to tackle the causes of homelessness and has teamed up with a Sheffield charity.
Vinny, aged 53, said: “Becoming homeless at 15-years-old and the years that followed were the hardest years of my life.
“When most people see someone homeless in the street, they automatically assume that it’s because they’ve been involved with drugs or crime, but in most cases there are lots of other reasons as to why they are on the streets.” Vinny’s life began turning around when he started working as a youth worker with Capita.
He progressed onto other jobs within the company and finally became an estates manager.
Aged 46, he decided to turn his back on the ‘rat race’ and moved to Sheffield from Nottingham in 2008, where he hoped to start a new life.
Today, Vinny lives in Crookes and runs a successful gym called V Force Fitness, in Highfield – dubbed the cleanest in Britain.
He spends his days providing help and advice in order to enable individuals to fulfil their personal goals and devotes much of spare his time to helping raise awareness of the causes of homelessness.
Vinny’s meticulous attention to detail of keeping his gym clean attracted the attention of Channel Four programme Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners after being tipped off by one of his clients.
The show sees obsessive cleaners team up to clean some of the dirtiest homes in Britain.
Vinny, dubbed King Cleaner on the show, is now aiming to clean up attitudes towards homelessness and is planning to visit schools and colleges around the UK to challenge the perception of homelessness. He has already joined forces with the Sheffield-based charity, the Cathedral Archer Project, to help raise funds to support the work of the charity.
The project, based at Sheffield Cathedral, is a day centre for homeless adults, offering food, support services and signposting to other agencies able to help those without a roof over their heads.
Vinny, a father-of-four, said: “Homelessness is a vicious, destructive cycle.
“When I was on the streets there was no-one to turn to, and I think this is why projects like Sheffield’s Cathedral Archer Project are so important. It costs £37,500 per year to keep someone in prison.
“Just £255 gives someone homeless the chance to start afresh.
“The maths just doesn’t add up.
“The profession I work in means I get to help people every day. They have made a choice to come to me for help with their health and lifestyle.
“Working on Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners made me realise the situations people sometimes find themselves in cannot be helped, just like those who are homeless.
“Many people think those who are homeless have chosen to be, which is simply not the case.
“My next step is to educate and inform people of all ages on homelessness as a whole and the effects it can have on people’s lives.”
n Fundraising dinner to help city’s homeless: see P16