Thom Coyne went from popular pub landlord to sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton and Hove in a matter of months.

The 46-year-old moved to the city with his partner Anne to run the Stanmer Park Tavern on Ditchling Road in September 2000.

But running the pub was a team effort and when he and Anne split up, he was forced to look for a new job.

Thom tried his hand at freelance pub management around the city but the business failed in February this year and, after almost a decade in the trade, he found himself out of a job.

Because his accommodation came with his job, he lost his home.

Thom initially stayed with a friend in Brighton but was worried about taking advantage and outstaying his welcome.

He packed his bags and ended up with the city's homeless, spending most nights sleeping on the benches on Hove seafront.

Thom said: "Devastation is not a strong enough word to describe how it feels to be homeless. It's the lowest point.

"There are more people sleeping rough in Brighton than the official figures show.

"Plenty of them want to get out of the trough they are in but they don't know where to turn."

It was in such a state of desperation that Thom walked into St Patrick's Church on Cambridge Road.

He had heard about the church, which doubles as a hostel and night shelter.

"I turned up to mass one morning carrying my bags.

"The parish priest collared me and said: 'Are you homeless?' He told me to go to the night shelter where I'd be looked after."

From being at his lowest point, Thom found a lifeline.

He started staying at the night shelter, a 22-bed facility run by the St Patrick's Trust charity, before progressing to a more permanent base at the hostel.

He also became a student at the trust's learning and resource centre and brushed up his IT skills.

Thom, originally from Liverpool, said: "I had never heard of, never mind used, computer software such as Microsoft Works or Print Shop Deluxe.

"I updated my CV and learnt to edit and produce newsletters and put web pages together."

Thom got into one of the trust's Move-On houses - a flat which serves as middle ground between living in the hostel and getting back into society.

The skills and house helped him find an admin job at the Friends Centre in Ship Street.

Thom is now saving for a deposit and looking forward to getting his own place.

He said: "I was very fortunate. I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for St Pat's.

"There are a lot of people who have ended up on the streets not through drink or drugs. They landed on hard times like me.

"I knew I'd get out of my situation somehow. I was determined.

"Homelessness to me was a temporary situation. I still had a sister in Liverpool and I knew I had that to fall back on. But I love Brighton and wanted to try to make my life here.

"People have this idea of the homeless as lager-swilling junkies selling the Big Issue. But I met people from all walks of life - teachers, builders, you name it.

"Sometimes it's debt problems, sometimes people have mental health issues. I know how easy it is to be made homeless."

Thom is one of the hundreds of people helped by the St Patrick's Trust every month.

According to official figures from Brighton and Hove City Council, there are just 11 people sleeping rough on the streets.

But the number is understood to be much higher.

As well as the night shelter and hostel in the converted church, the trust this week re-opened an extra facility to cope with this surplus.

The All Night Cafe is based in the dining room of the night shelter, which is usually full around Christmas.

The cafe does not have any beds but offers cups of tea, meals, a TV and a friendly face between 11pm and 7am.

People sleep on chairs or find a space on the floor.

The cafe is run on donations but there is only enough money to keep it open for 30 days.

Staff and volunteers have launched an appeal to raise £30,000 to keep this lifeline open until spring.

An extra £8,000 is needed for equipment such as bedding and sleeping mats.

Hundreds of homeless are expected to use the facility over the Christmas period after its success last winter.

Father Allen Sharpe said: "It's terrible to turn people away and leave them to sleep rough. Christmas is a really difficult time. It reminds them of what they haven't got.

"But there's no need for anyone to sleep out while the All Night Cafe is open. We try to provide a feeling of an extended family Christmas."

The charity, founded in 1985 after Father Alan let two people sleep on the church pews one night, will be serving Christmas dinner to the homeless.

It will be followed by festive entertainment, the Queen's speech and a buffet.

On Boxing Day and New Year's Day, residents will also be given food and entertainment.

The charity is looking for volunteers to help with the festive celebrations, including people to prepare food and wash up.

It also needs donations of Christmas presents, including socks, gloves, hats, soap, shaving foam, chocolate bars and biscuits.

Other activities include a crib service and midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the church, and Christmas Day mass at 10.30am.

The St Patrick's Trust provides more than 25,000 bed spaces per year.

It has been the subject of an award-winning BBC documentary called Father Alan's Ark, and was visited by The Queen two years ago.

To donate time or money to St Patrick's, call 01273 733151. For more information, log onto