A volunteer for the homeless has been nominated for the Watford Observer Community Heroes Award.

Stephen Russell of Homeless Warriors in Watford was recommended for the award by fellow supporter and member of the online group Laura Santry for his “caring and selfless” work helping people on the street.

Laura said: “I really believe he deserves this award as someone who puts others before himself and is making a clear grassroots effort to support and stand up for the vulnerable people who are sadly without a roof over their heads.”

Stephen began Homeless Warriors a year ago following a cardiac arrest two years ago which forced him to leave the police force. He was also diagnosed with epilepsy.

Soon after that, Stephen was evicted from his home. He said: “It was extremely stressful, and we ended up in Watford Travelodge.

“Luckily, we were moved into temporary accommodation quite quickly - it was in the Travelodge that I saw one of the rough sleepers walk past and I thought we had it bad.”

Stephen had been volunteering at Hertfordshire Mind Network gaining practical experience in mental health.

These events, the death of his father in 2017 and a book called Way of the Peaceful Warrior inspired him to start his organisation.

He set up a Facebook group asking for donations and soon after that, Stephen said someone bought him a trailer for his bike which he uses to cycle around Watford handing out essentials such as underwear, sock, shoes, sleeping bags and water.

In recent weeks during record-breaking high temperatures, Stephen said he handed out around 1,000 bottles of water with his son, Max.

On his website, Stephen says: “Warriors are gaining momentum but controlling our growth. We are very close to becoming a Community Interest Company and working with other organisations.

“Not only are we looking to help our rough sleeping friends but also those in vulnerable housing.”

He goes on to say the organisation hopes to get enough funding for an electric coffee cart.

He added: “We have two fundraisers in the pipeline, I am also joined by a lady called Ruth Lee who is a director and of course my son Max who comes out with me on occasions.”

Speaking about his organisation, Stephen said: “Doing this has given me a sense of purpose, a sense of community and how important that is - we have big ideas for the future.

“But it has also opened doors to the community and we have a new group called Homebrella which aims to bring in all the smaller projects to work together.

“I feel this is my calling along with the volunteering at Mind as the two are very much linked together.”

Stephen said he was “completely stunned” to be nominated for the Watford Observer Community Heroes Award.

He added: “I could not do this without the support of family and friends and all the members of the group whose generous donations enable me to help.”

Laura Santry also said: “He is clearly a highly passionate, caring and selfless individual who works tirelessly to provide a level of care to those in need in our local community.”

Homeless Warriors supports and volunteers alongside New Hope, a charity for the homeless, and Random Café, a not-for-profit organisation who collect leftover food from various supermarkets that would have otherwise gone to waste.

For more information about funding Homeless Warriors, email watfordhomelessproject@yahoo.com or visit https://m.facebook.com/groups/168592983784609