A MAN from Cross Roads has clawed his way back from imprisonment, drug abuse, homelessness and suicidal despair.

Liam Knights, 24, who was jailed in 2011 for his role in stealing more than £24,000 from a bingo hall, is now studying at Leeds University and will travel to Ghana this summer to help people in poverty.

"Five years ago I had no future and no hope, but now I’m at university and I’m going to Africa," he said. "That feels crazy to me. Never in a million years could I have seen that coming."

Mr Knights, who is in his first year of studying social sciences, is looking for support to help him pay for his Ghana mission.

He will travel as part of a Government-funded project called ICS, and must show his commitment by raising £800.

"So many people have helped me in my life when I didn’t deserve it, and now I want to give something back," he added.

"I'd really appreciate people's help. If they don’t want to help me personally they can donate to Inn Churches. It's a deserving charity and it saved my life."

Mr Knights said that five years ago he had been squatting in a block of flats in Keighley, sleeping on bare floors with no heating or hot water and taking drugs to cope with his miserable living conditions.

After being evicted, he slept rough in a park. At the time he was working as a treasurer at Keighley's Gala Bingo in Alice Street.

In March 2011, he and another man stole £24,580 worth of takings from the bingo hall, then headed to Amsterdam where they spent the money in less than two months.

Mr Knights said: "The legal guidelines said that for my crime I should get a minimum of five to seven years. By some kind of miracle, I only got 15 months.

"At this point, I knew for a fact that I had no future. I won’t go into too much detail about prison, but rest assured it wasn't fun."

He unsuccessfully attempted suicide after leaving prison, then lived on the streets in Bradford.

It was then that homeless charity Inn Churches introduced him to Paul and Steph Cribb, who offered him shelter and support at their community living project.

"I had a lot of baggage and I was a difficult person to be around," he said. "But they persevered. I'm eternally grateful and I don’t think I'll ever be able to thank them enough for what they did."

With Mr Cribb's help, he secured employment as a builder and was inspired to study for a degree while working at Bradford University.

"I’ve nearly completed my first year of university, achieving things I never thought I would," he said.

"Even though I'm flawed in so many ways, I'm so proud of what I've achieved so far. I should be dead so many times over but somehow I’m not."

Anyone wanting to help fund his Ghana project can do so by visiting justgiving.com/liam-knights/ or they can also visit innchurches.co.uk/donate/ to contribute to this charity.