From sleeping rough to being Kofi Annan's bodyguard

Glenn Tibbitts has seen it all. In his teenage years, Mr Tibbitts was sleeping rough on city streets across the country and at 50, he was acting bodyguard for former-United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan.

"It's a huge step isn't it? I look at that quite often and think I'm proud of that," Mr Tibbitts said.

Now the face of ACT Council of Social Service and Red Cross ACT's Anti-Poverty Week, Mr Tibbitts helps Canberra's ex-prisoners transition back into everyday life.

Glenn Tibbitts, who slept on the streets when he was younger, is one of the faces of ACTCOSS' Anti-Poverty week campaign. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Glenn Tibbitts, who slept on the streets when he was younger, is one of the faces of ACTCOSS' Anti-Poverty week campaign. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Organisers said this week was about helping the public understand the causes of poverty and to promote research to address its causes.

"I do assist people who are in dire straits: they're on their last legs. A lot of people get out of [Alexander Maconochie Centre] and they've got nothing," Mr Tibbitts said.

He can often relate. He fled an abusive home in Tasmania when he was 15, moving to Victoria to live with his stepfather and mother.

It didn't last long. Still grappling with the trauma of the abuse, the teenaged Mr Tibbitts would act out and baulk at any attempts by his stepfather to lay down the law.

At 16 he left his stepfather's home with nothing but the clothes he had on, hitching a ride out of Victoria.

A year later, in 1982, he was in Brisbane sleeping on the streets when he and two friends were arrested for vagrancy after swimming in public fountain. Back at the station, the three boys were told to unpack their gear in front of the officers then leave the room.

"We had a sack full of whatever belongings we had in our lives. I had a light doona that was rolled up and tied up with string," Mr Tibbitts said.

When they got back in they were told to unpack their belongings again, only this time Mr Tibbitts found a hash pipe in his bag.

When Mr Tibbits protested, the two arresting officers were ushered out of the room by a sergeant who took the trio to a locker room.

There the sergeant pulled out tins of food for Mr Tibbitts and let the trio off, handing Mr Tibbitts a note that contained $10 and told him to stay out of trouble.

"I could have gone to jail. I could have become different from jail," Mr Tibbitts said.

Mr Tibbitts continued to struggle into his late 20s, but he now had two children to care for and Christmas was approaching.

"I had nothing to offer, which threw me further into a depression, making you feel like a loser," Mr Tibbitts said.

"I went down to St Vincent de Paul,  I talked to them about the situation. I was panicking obviously."

The charity gave him a large bag full of Christmas presents to give to his children. Mr Tibbitts remembers unpacking it when he got home.

"I just lost it, I was sitting on the lounge, I was just crying," Mr Tibbitts said.

He was still grappling with flashbacks from his childhood and sought counselling, which he credits with helping him land a proper job, eventually getting married and having another child.

Mr Tibbitts was able to start his own security company in Canberra, G&A Security Services and even participated in the 2013 CEO Sleepout event.

"What changed and got me back to being normal and straightened my life out? Honestly, it's the love and support of my wife and family. They make me want to be a better man," Mr Tibbitts said.

Mr Tibbitts recounted his story and how far he'd come at a homelessness forum in 2013.

Glenn Tibbitts with former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan in 2016. Photo: Supplied

Glenn Tibbitts with former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan in 2016. Photo: Supplied

Three years later, in 2016, Mr Tibbitts was contracted for a high-profile bodyguard detail and wasn't told who the client was until shortly before he arrived.

It was Kofi Annan, the former-United Nations secretary general. Mr Tibbitts, now 50, and his wife were shocked.

The theft crushed Mr Tibbitts' business and forced him into liquidation. The employee was sentenced to a minimum three years behind bars in 2017 after prosecutors appealed the originally shorter sentence.

Reflecting on Anti-Poverty Week, Mr Tibbitts said his story showed any little bit of help could make a huge difference.

"It can be a kind word, it can be a handshake, it can be 'Here, have a coffee, let's have a chat'," he said.

"Just something as simple as that can make a huge difference to someone's state of mind.

"Anyone with the determination to make a change for themselves, to want better for themselves and family: you can do it.

"You can change not only your life but other lives along the way to be in a better place."