Ed Stafford is a former captain of the British Army, an adventurer, and an explorer. For his new TV documentary project 60 Days on the Streets on Channel 4, he left his son, wife, and their cozy home for 2 months so that he could live the life of a homeless person for this period of time. He had to live without food, money, and shelter in the middle of winter. By doing this, he wanted to figure out why people end up on the streets and how they manage to get by.
At Bright Side, we found Stafford’s experiment really interesting and would like to tell you about it in this article.
The problem of homelessness is not just relevant in developing countries. According to a 2018 research, 320,000 people in Great Britain alone have no home, which is approximately one out of every 200 people. More than a half of these people live in London and many are ex-military.
Ed Stafford, who is currently 43 years old, decided to find out why these people end up on the streets. In order to do this, he lived on the streets of London, Manchester, and Glasgow for 60 days.
New extreme experience
Ed has done a lot of things in his life, he walked the entire length of the Amazon River (approximately 4,000 miles) and he appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 for being the first man who had ever done a trip like that. When filming for a Discovery Channel project, Ed had to live on Orolua Island (an uninhabited Fijian island) without food, water, clothes, or tools for 60 days. Sometimes, his courage failed him and he was ready to cry over the smallest problem. But it was the life a homeless man that became the most nerve-racking and scary for him.
He gained 11 pounds.
The life of a homeless man was more profitable that Ed thought it would be. In just one night, he could make between £100-200, more than the average Londoner could make having a regular job.
There was no lack of food either: volunteers gave out free burgers and other fast food to the homeless, and the quantity of food was much more than people actually needed.
In Glasgow, for example, Ed counted 26 volunteers giving out food, while there were only 2 homeless men. One of the vagabonds even complained that he was overfed.
Despite his initial concerns that he would starve and lose weight, Ed put on 11 pounds over the course of the 60 day project. Tests later showed that he would get heart problems if he continued to eat like this.
However, Ed took a risk and tried eating out of a trash can. He found a pretty good salad in there once. Unfortunately, he couldn’t properly enjoy this lunch because he found a piece of used chewing gum inside the food.
Also, Ed had to wash himself with the water from the toilet bowls sometimes. Being inside a toilet cubicle was the only way he could get fully undressed and clean his itchy body.
Some of them earn £100 — and then go home to take a hot shower.
Ed thought that no one in their right mind would decide to spend nights in the freezing cold, but in reality many homeless people preferred the streets to temporary shelters. One of the beggars could earn £20 in about 20 minutes by saying that he needed this money to pay for his shelter but then he would turn around and spend it all on drugs.
And to his surprise, Ed wasn’t the only fake beggar. Some had homes of their own, but they still worked on streets to make easy money. They begged for money for a living, and then spent it all on drugs and alcohol. One of these fake beggars, Darren, said that he could earn up to £600 per night by asking for money from drunk pub-goers. But usually he went home to have dinner and take a hot shower after he had collected £100.
Another fake beggar received an apartment from the government after he had been released from prison. He was going to get a proper job in the beginning. But his potential employers offered him £8 an hour, which he found unacceptable. So, he chose an easier way to earn money for a living.
According to Ed, even the real homeless people didn’t really need the money as much as they needed the psychological support to be able to adapt socially. He also said that despite the fact that he found some good friends on the streets of London, he would never give handouts to either the real beggars or the fake ones.
How do they end up on the streets?
Despite the difficulties of living on the streets, by the end of the experiment, Ed began to enjoy his freedom in this new life that had no schedules or limitations. Still, he underlined that even those who had accepted their homeless life didn’t really want to stay vagabonds forever.
Some of them had run away from their drug-addicted parents, or escaped violence in their families. In Manchester, Ed met Dina who was the mother of 6. She claimed that she used to be a model, who did campaigns for Debenhams and M&S. Her life went in the wrong direction when she was 13. Her parents got divorced and she stayed with her drug-addicted mother. When Dina was 15, she fell in love with a guy who became the father of her children. Currently, her children live their father while she has to live in a temporary shelter made of old tents and trolleys. Despite the fact that Dina is a drug-addict, she misses her children very much.
Dina was happy to invite Ed into her shelter and even shared her cookies with him.
During the experiment, Ed encountered a lot of aggression and drug addiction, he witnessed a fight between 2 beggars for a better spot, and he was also threatened by the police to be arrested for begging. Once, his sleeping bag even got wet because someone peed on it and this wasn’t even the worst case scenario, since the sleeping bags of some of the other homeless people were burned.
After a while, Ed returned to the spot where Dina’s shelter was set up and it was gone, together with its owner.
Do we need to give handouts to homeless people? Who should take care of them, in your opinion? Maybe you’ve witnessed an interesting story yourself? Share it in the comments below.
This article was originally published by Bright Side
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