A homeless man who was beaten up by teenage thugs has said he “feels warm in his heart” and has offered a huge “thank you” to the Blackpool residents who have rallied to help him.
Less than a week on from the mindless attack which left Slovakian Igor Gieci with horrific facial injuries and may have permanently blinded him in one eye, he has moved in to a new flat and is overwhelmed by the generosity of the town.
Resort homeless campaigner Mark Butcher, who founded the Amazing Graze soup kitchen in Boothley Road, bought Igor reading glasses, food, a haircut, and medicine following the attack.
A fund-raising campaign called ‘Help Igor get a home to be safe’ was set up and it was hoped £3,000 would be raised through donations, which would pay six months’ rent up front .
The campaign has almost reached its target.
Mr Gieci, who has been homeless for six to eight months has now moved in to a new flat on Park Road in Blackpool, and is ready for a “fresh start”.
He has also had a cleaning company offer him their services for six months and a local take away have gifted him one free meal a week.
Speaking in broken English Igor said: “I feel very warm in my heart. Me very happy. I want to say thank you to everyone in Blackpool. Too much me help. Too much.”
Following the vicious assault Mr Gieci relived the moment “17 to 18-year-olds” ordered him to hand over his money – he did not have any – before punching and kicking him repeatedly.
He recalled how he cried “please, stop it, stop it, what is me problem, me no problem” as the thugs smacked him with his own crutches and took his basic Alcatel mobile phone before they strolled off like “normal.” His tent was also ripped and thrown away.
Mr Gieci said he went to the tourist information centre after the attack, and was taken to the council’s housing office in Albert Road before being driven to hospital by a council worker.
He was treated and discharged, and later helped by the Street Angels – Christian volunteers who work across the resort to help the needy and the vulnerable – who took him to a safer place, the Metropole hotel on the Promenade in the town centre, a regular hang out for the homeless.
Homeless campaigner Mark Butcher spearheaded efforts to help Mr Gieci. He said: “I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams being able to achieve so much in such a short space of time.
“We would never have been able to do it without the people of Blackpool – and beyond.
“On the whole it has been overwhelming and emotional. It has restored my faith in humanity.”
Shelley Meads, a friend of Mark and his wife Abi rallied round to help move Igor in to his new home and help him settle in.
She said: “People can say what they want about Blackpool but when it comes down to it the community really know how to pull together and have that community spirit when someone is in need.”
And volunteer Chris Conway, 25, from Bispham who helped to move furniture in to the flat said he has always felt very strongly about the plight of the homeless.
He said: “I have always felt strongly about homelessness and when I saw what Mark was doing I wanted to get involved.
“It warms your heart that people care about hummanity. Igor is a gentle, kind man and no-one deserves what happened to him.”