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Meet ex-homeless man ‘Mr Christmas’ who has decorated his house with 17,500 lights for charity

Mark Abbott spent time sofa surfing and in a homeless hostel, now he wants to raise cash for a Norwich charity by thrilling kids with his winter woodland home.

A former homeless man has been dubbed ‘Mr Christmas’ after he transformed his home with 17,500 Christmas lights to raise funds for the hostel where he stayed 15 years ago.

Mark Abbott has covered his home in lights and set up a sleigh on his front garden which can seat four children. He also has a snow machine to ensure festive weather and a light-covered archway to mark the way to the front door.

Mark Abbott formerly homeless now has Christmas lights
Mark Abbott’s home has become a big hit with locals and beyond. He told The Big Issue a family had driven from Sheffield to see it. Image: Mark Abbott

Now, the dad-of-three has families flocking to see his home with some even travelling from as far as Sheffield.

Abbott is hoping the winter wonderland will raise funds for St Martins in Norwich, a homelessness cause that to him is close to home.

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“I’ve always liked Christmas lights, they’re so pretty. And I’ve always liked the festive thing, even the cold weather,” said Abbott.

“I like how people are at Christmas, everybody seems to be so nice.

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“I do really love it when I see kids’ faces. The biggest thing for me is that it’s bringing people together.

“I’ve added more lights in December [the decorations started going up in September] but I’m done now and I am thinking of what I can add next year.”

Dancer Abbott was juggling three jobs to keep a roof above his head but lost his rented home and was unable to get a new one after paying for work on his car he needed to get to jobs.

That meant he was forced to sofa surf and “keep a duvet” in the back of his car before he finally enlisted the help of St Martins in Norwich.

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Abbott, now 44, stayed at the hostel for nine months which provided him with the grounding to save up funds and get on the housing register and he now runs a children’s dance company.

He has been putting up Christmas lights for eight years and now the decorations have become an obsession.

But his experiences of homelessness have stuck with him and when he was putting his Christmas lights up and two elderly passers-by told him he should raise money for charity, he instantly had one cause in mind.

Mark Abbott formerly homeless now has Christmas lights
The Norwich home features 17,500 Christmas lights and sleigh on the lawn with reindeer and a snow machine to get passers-by in the festive spirit. Image: Mark Abbott

The winter wonderland has been in place since September and now contains around 17,500 lights and 4,000 feet of wires after Abbott has continued to add to it.

“It’s with me now, I bring up my children to be grateful for what you’ve got,” said Abbott.

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“When I was told people would donate the first thing I thought about was just the homeless instantly. I’ve heard stories that families have also been made homeless through no fault of their own because of the pandemic. I can’t even imagine. 

“So I knew exactly what I was going to do straight away. That was a no brainer for me.”

The fundraiser can be found here.

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