While so many of us have a place we can call our home, there is a countless number of people out there who have to fend for themselves on the streets. Every day is a struggle and simply finding food and clean water to live is never guaranteed. A war veteran wanted to know what it was like to live on the streets of his country, so he left his family, took one set of clothes and a sleeping bag, and slept on the streets for 60 days. However, after being introduced to a wide variety of rough sleepers, beggars, and homeless people, he vowed to never give handouts again…
A former British Army veteran decided to live on the streets for 60 days in order to get a better understanding of what it was like to be homeless. 43-year-old Ed Stafford was used to home comforts, before deciding to go undercover, pretending to be a beggar for 60 days.
However, he wasn’t faking it. Ed lived on the streets of London, Manchester, and Glasgow for 60 days and the things he saw completely changed the way he felt about the country’s homeless community…
He’s Been Through So Much
It appeared that 60 days living on the British streets would be fairly easy for Ed Stafford, especially since he had already lived in some extremely difficult conditions. Not only was Ed once a captain of the British Army, but he has also broken records in his life.
In 2012, the veteran entered the Guinness Book of World Records when he became the first man to walk the entire Amazon River. And yet, his latest challenge was the most grueling yet…
He Had Everything
There is no denying that Ed had worked very hard to get where he was in life. The war veteran had become something of a TV personality and was now reaping the benefits.
Not only did he get married to the woman of his dreams, but the happy couple built a family, lived in a beautiful house and even had dogs to take out on scenic walks. However, Ed was ready to put all of that aside for his latest endeavor…
Leaving Everything Behind
Ed was so committed to his latest challenge that he even made his very own documentary out of it – 60 Days on the Streets. In order to fully immerse himself into the homeless lifestyle, he was forced to leave his family and home behind, and all he took with him was one set of clothes, a sleeping bag, and a camera crew.
Also, he took no money with him, which firmly set him on the path of becoming one of the UK’s many homeless people…
Surrounded By Trouble
A 2018 study showed that a staggering 320,000 people in Great Britain live without a home. This means that 1 out of every 200 people don’t have a place they can call their own home. Moreover, many of the homeless have previously served in the military – a statistic that broke Ed’s heart.
Soon enough, Ed was surrounded by terrible situations, like homeless people getting into fights. Also, people approached him asking for and offering illicit substances in equal measure. Every day presented more challenges for Ed…
First Night Was The Hardest
There is no denying that Ed’s first night out on the streets was the toughest. He remembered pulling out his sleeping bag for the first time and struggling all night to get a good night’s sleep.
Manchester, England is notorious for having a lot of rain and on his first night, Ed just about managed to dodge the rain. However, this took nothing away from how uncomfortable his first night was on the streets. Soon enough, he met some interesting people…
The Streets Are A Goldmine
One fascinating insight that Ed soon learned was that some homeless people are able to make a lot of money on any given day. In Manchester, one homeless person he met by the name of Mark, mastered the art of making easy money by smooth-talking his way through town.
Sadly, just seven years ago, Mark was a successful painter, but ended up on the streets after his marriage broke down. Mark’s not the only one who can make good money on the streets…
He Became A Scavenger
One of the classic assumptions people make about the homeless is that they have to scavenge through dumpsters in order to find food. This does apply to many who live on the streets and Ed experienced this first hand.
He found a nice-looking salad in a trash can once, but decided against eating it because he found chewing gum inside it. Soon enough though, Ed learned that he wouldn’t have to spend too much time scavenging around dumpsters for food…
He Was Overfed
By the end of his 60 days on the streets, Ed couldn’t believe that he had actually put on 11 pounds when everything was said and done. He was overwhelmed by how much food people were willing to give him.
He never ate so many burgers, sandwiches, and pastries. When he was in Glasgow, Ed was astounded to see that 26 volunteers were giving out food to just two homeless men. Nutritionists told Ed that if he had continued to eat that way, he would’ve developed heart problems.
Throughout the 60 days, Ed found many creative places and ways to get a good night’s rest. However, probably his most memorable sleep came in Manchester when he met a young homeless woman named Dina.
A mother of six, Dina used to be a model. Now though, she lives on the streets and made her very own cardboard shelter, which she let Ed sleep in for a night. She would give anything to be back with her children, but sadly, she has grown used to the streets…
As each day went on, Ed soon began to realize that everyone around who was also living on the streets was involved in some sort of illegal activity, in some shape or form.
As soon as he woke up the morning after staying in Dina’s shelter, he noticed that she was desperate to score some illicit substances to get her day off to the best start possible. Horrified by what he was seeing, Ed soon saw first-hand how the people of Manchester dealt with this problem…
Cops Confronted Him
In his documentary 60 Days On The Streets, Ed mentioned that Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham is trying to crack down on the growing population of homeless people in the city center.
In fact, Ed was in for a rude awakening when a team of policemen approached him and interrogated him, asking him what he was doing. One officer even told Ed that sitting there and receiving money and food from the public was an offense and he gave Ed his final warning.
Desperate Cleaning Measures
For a homeless person, trying to maintain one’s personal hygiene is extremely difficult. When you don’t have access to your own bathroom or clean running water, it is a daily struggle to keep yourself clean.
Ed started to realize this and took some pretty desperate measures. Seeing that he had been wearing the same clothes for many days, Ed was itching a lot and ended up using toilet water to clean himself. He also used bathroom cubicles to undress and wash his clothes.
They Had A Moment Together
Although he was living on the streets for his TV show, it was clear that Ed had gained the trust of numerous rough sleepers during his time out there. Despite having some tough moments with Dina, the pair were able to have sweet moments, where they could just enjoy each other’s company and look up to the moonlit sky.
Living on the streets can be extremely lonely, so any friends you do have can go along way in life.
He Found It Liberating
As time went on, Ed started to acclimatize to living on the streets, admitting that one develops toughness and a street-wise mentality in order to survive. However, things weren’t always so hard for the veteran.
In fact, he loved nothing more than sitting on the sidewalk and watching people pass by. For him, there was something liberating about not having any responsibilities or rules to abide by. Soon enough though, he met a homeless person who had a very different outlook…
Not Your Typical “Rough Sleeper”
One homeless person who Ed stumbled across in Manchester was a young man called Jeff. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who were much older and had been on the streets for much longer, Jeff was only 26 years old and had only been on the streets for a few months.
He told Ed that despite having mental health issues, he desperately wanted to succeed in life. Ed was impressed by Jeff’s positive attitude. However, things started to change before his very eyes…
Targeting High-End Hotels
Ed found it refreshing to see this young man who seemed so determined to get himself off the streets. Here was a young man, who on face value, was a talented individual who just needed some luck to get himself back on track.
One night though, Jeff took Ed to some high-end hotels and told him that he planned to ask people entering and exiting the buildings for money. It didn’t take long before Ed started to see the cracks…
Jeff Lied To Him
After just half an hour, Jeff made the equivalent of 26 dollars after asking people for money. Ed found this extremely impressive, claiming that 50 bucks for an hour’s work was a pretty good way to live.
Shortly after, Jeff told Ed that he was going to use the money to score some illicit substances, before shamelessly using them in front of him. Ed learned (the hard way) that Jeff wasn’t the naive, young man he thought he was, after all…
Trust No One
It soon became crystal clear to Ed that if he was so wrong about Jeff, was there anyone on the streets who he could genuinely trust? It seems like when you do not have a home, you are forced to do extreme things in order to survive.
As a result, many rough sleepers can adopt a different moral compass to those who do have homes and Ed could see this in Jeff. He knew he could not fully trust anyone on the streets, but he wanted to…
Ed Still Tried To Help Him
Refusing to give up on him, Ed still saw some light in Jeff and realized that deep down, he was just a lost, young man who needed some direction in his life.
Determined to help him get back on the right track, Ed organized a council meeting for Jeff at Manchester Town Hall, to which Jeff was happy to attend. As they embraced each other and parted ways, Ed was excited for what the next day might bring, until…
As Ed waited outside of Manchester Town Hall waiting for Jeff’s arrival, he noticed that half an hour had passed since the appointment was supposed to begin. Worried about Jeff’s whereabouts, he sent him a couple of texts before trying to call him.
However, Jeff failed to respond to Ed and wouldn’t take any of his calls. It was clear that Jeff had changed his mind about getting help and as a result, didn’t want Ed to contact him anymore.
West End = Dead End
With one chapter of Ed’s 60 Days On The Street coming to an end in Manchester, another began on the streets of London, the country’s capital.
After choosing to find places to sleep in the West End, a district which is basically England’s answer to Broadway, Ed couldn’t believe how many corners of this glitzy area were laden with homeless people. And while Ed encountered many genuine rough sleepers, he also stumbled across some homeless people who weren’t technically homeless…
No One Said “Hello”
One day, when Ed went to a high street of Central London, he did a little experiment to see how many people would give any sort of attention, whether it be money or simply some kind words.
After five minutes, 72 people had walked passed him and nobody said anything to him. Not one word. Completely disheartened by this lack of interaction, Ed decided to pack up his things and relocate. Then, someone did give him some attention, but not the kind he had hoped for…
It shouldn’t come us too much of a surprise that Ed encountered some pretty hostile individuals during his time on the streets of London. One woman stopped while she was walking, noticed Ed’s cameramen and verbally attacked him for what he was doing.
“You haven’t got a story to tell!” she yelled at him. It wasn’t clear whether or not she was homeless, but the lady was obviously angry with Ed’s decision to document the life of rough sleepers.
This Beggar Was Not Homeless
When Ed was living on the streets of London, he learned something remarkable about one of the rough sleepers that he was sharing a sidewalk with. The beggar in question wasn’t actually homeless and was purely begging because he figured he was earning more than he would in a regular job.
Darren claimed to earn up to $800 on some nights, simply by walking around and asking for money. And Ed was in for quite a surprise when Darren invited him to his home…
Welcome To My Humble Abode
Amazingly, Darren lived in his very own home and had all the things an average person needs, and then some. Not only did he have hot running water to have showers and a bed to rest his head, but he also had other luxuries such as sound systems and video game consoles.
Apparently, the government gave Darren the home after he was released from prison. However, when he couldn’t find a stable job, he resorted to begging, which proved to be much more fruitful.
The Treacherous Streets Of Glasgow
When Ed traveled up north, he noticed that the homeless community in Glasgow was very different from that of Manchester and London, and for a few reasons.
Although the homeless rate is as high in the Scottish city as it was in the previous two cities he lived in, Glasgow’s streets were empty at night. This wasn’t only because it was much colder up north, but the city has developed a reputation for being dangerous, especially at night.
Taken To A Shelter
Ed was informed that Scotland is home to some of the most progressive laws when it comes to homelessness, most notably borrowing the HouseFirst policy that proved to be very successful in Sweden.
Moreover, Glasgow has many homeless shelters and it wouldn’t take long before Ed was directed to one of them. After having some hot meals and a bed to rest his head, Ed soon met a homeless person who added a new layer of meaning to his 60-day experience…
He Genuinely Wants Help
Ed met a man who, in many ways, had the inverted story of Jeff. Knoxy isn’t too much younger than Ed and for the last 18 years, he has lived on the streets of Glasgow.
Having come from a broken family and ending up on the wrong side of the law on a number of occasions, Knoxy is ultimately a friendly individual who genuinely wants to improve his life. And he wasn’t the only Glaswegian rough sleeper that had a unique story to tell…
Helping One Person At A Time
Another Glaswegian who Ed was put in touch with had originally been in temporary housing before being kicked out and made to fend for himself on the streets.
The man in question had been in and out of prison for many years and when he met Ed, he was part of a close-knit Glaswegian shelter community. However, Ed was able to help the man get back on his feet and before he knew it, he was back in temporary housing.
It’s Not All About The Money
One valuable lesson that Ed learned from his 60 days on the streets was that there was something more important than money that every homeless person, real or fake, needed in order to survive.
Without healthy psychological support and a network of friends/family to help them through their darkest hour, all the money in the world might not save someone from surviving and truly thriving in this world. Knox was overwhelmed by the kind words of support Ed gave him during their time together.
Home Sweet Home
When the 60 days were up, Ed had survived living on the streets of three of Great Britain’s busiest cities. The moment he opened the front door of his home, his wife emotionally embraced him and he was finally able to resume his normal life.
However, Ed will never think the same way again about the country’s homeless community. He feels guilty knowing that there will always be rough sleepers on the streets of England and Scotland. However, will he continue giving to beggars?
To Give Or Not To Give?
After coming across so many unique rough sleepers, each with their own unique story, Ed soon came to realize that not all homeless people are the same. In fact, not all homeless people are technically homeless.
Every person living on the streets should be treated differently and it is difficult to tell one case from the other. Until he can find a real distinction, he admitted that he’d never give handouts to real or fake beggars any time soon…