Often times people are quick to judge a book by the cover or rather a man by his clothes. When faced with a homeless person on the sidewalk, many people will be quick to cross the street or just pretend that the man in rags doesn’t exist. From afar one will show their pity and wonder how that person manages to survive in such a state, but it never goes beyond this. One brave veteran was done wondering and decided that he’d slip into a pair of ragged clothing and be homeless for sixty days. The journey would ultimately change his life and view of the homeless forever.
We’ve all taken a gander at a homeless person and wondered how they managed to survive day to day. A 43-year-old British Army veteran named Ed Stafford decided to put his wondering aside and take things to the next level. He would live as a homeless for 60 days.
Initially, he took his experiment as simply a personal challenge, but his days as an undercover homeless person would end up changing his life forever. By the time his 60 days were up, his perspective on the homeless communities in London, Manchester and Glasgow would change completely.
Ed’s Celebrated Military Career
For an average person, 60 days living as an undercover beggar seems like quite the undertaking, but for Ed, it was just another adventure. He was a captain in the British Army and was no stranger to harsh conditions, in fact, they were a past time of his back in his youth. His military career is extremely accomplished and decorated with an array of broken records. He last set a record a few years back when he became the only man to ever walk the entire length of the Amazon river. He could picture 60 days as a homeless person being harder than that.
Cutting Ties And Hitting The Road
Ed wasn’t hitting the streets alone, he was set on bringing the world along with him. One part of his 60 day homeless experience was making a documentary called 60 Days on the Streets. Before heading out the door, he said goodbye to his family, grabbed a sleeping bag, a single set of clothes and his camera crew. Also, note that Ed took no money with him at all. The absence of cash left no border between him and the United Kingdom’s thousands of homeless individuals. He was going to get the raw and legitimate experience of living on the streets.
Becoming One With The Homeless Scene
Great Britain’s homeless statistics are staggering by any standard. There are apparently 320,000 people living without a place to call home. That is one in every 200 people. A fact that especially trouble Ed’s heart is that many of them once served in the military just like him. Statistics alone weren’t the only thing burdening Ed. He saw first hand the conditions that these people have to live in. Within his first few days, he saw terrible fights over turf and was approached by a number of homeless offering and asking for substances.
Streets Paved In Gold
One of the most shocking facts that Ed discovered during his time as a homeless person was that some homeless people were able to make a ton of money. While in Manchester, Ed met a man named Mark who would make a ton of money by smooth-talking his way through the city on a daily basis. Mark wasn’t always hustling on the Manchester streets. Only a few years back he was a successful painter who was married with children. A bad divorce resulted in him losing it all, including his career. Thus, the man had to find a hustle to get him by.
Learning To Scavage For Food
When it comes to filling the stomach, we often imagine homeless people scavaging through rubbage bins in the hopes of discovering a solid meal. This isn’t as common anymore as it once was, but Ed wasn’t going to miss a beat. He has first-hand experience digging for food. He recalls once finding a pretty amazing salad but decided against eating it once he found some chewing gum inside. Quickly Ed discovered that he didn’t need to scavage for a meal. There were so many more sanitary options for the homeless community.
Putting On The Pounds
One thing that caught Ed off guard was the amount of food that he was given. People would constantly be giving Ed burgers, sandwiches and pastries. Not once did he have to go to bed hungry during his time as a homeless person. While he was in Glasgow, he recalled him and one other homeless man being attended to by over twenty volunteers. By the time his 60 days were up, Ed had gained 11 pounds. His doctor had warned him that if he continued eating like he was, he’d likely get heart disease.
Meeting Dina In Manchester
One of the hardest aspects of being homeless is getting a proper night’s sleep. Ed had to be very creative when it came to finding a good sleeping spot. One of his most memorable nights as a homeless person came when he met Dina in Manchester. She had constructed her own cardboard home which she invited Ed to sleep in. Dina was a mother of six children and at one time was even a model. Sadly, circumstances led to her losing her children and becoming homeless. Her sole dream was getting her children back, but Dina would have a hard path to go down.
Cops Cracking Down On The Homeless
On 60 Days On The Streets, Ed talks about Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester who is trying to crack down on the homeless situation that has taken over Manchester’s city center. Ed saw first hand how the city police are starting to lean on the homeless community. While Ed was sitting by the side of a building, he was approached by a team of officers who questioned him. They asked very rudely, “What are you doing?” They then informed him that sitting down and receiving money and food from the public was an offense and that they were giving him his final warning.
Find Solace In Toilet Water
One thing that definitely isn’t easy for a homeless person if keeping up with good hygiene. Someone without a home naturally had a difficult time getting to a bathroom with a shower intact. Keeping clean can become of the biggest headaches for these people. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Ed learned this first hand. Wearing the same clothes daily resulted in itchy skin and other irritations. Toilet water became his go-to place to wash his clothes and body. He’d also used bathroom stalls as a changing room.
The Joys Of Homelessness
Within only a few weeks, Ed found himself adapting to street life. He went on to say that a person develops a street-wise mentality and toughness after living on the streets. There were things about the homeless lifestyle that he even felt were enjoyable at times. One of his favorite hobbies was people watching. He could kill hours just sitting on the curb and watching people walk down the sidewalks. Ed went on to state that a life outside of rules and regulations was pretty liberating. Of course, not every homeless person felt this way.
Not Your Everyday Homeless Man
Whilst bumming around in Manchester, Ed met a young man named Jeff. He didn’t fit the profile of your typical everyday homeless guy. Jeff was fresh-faced and only 26-years-old. He looked nothing like your scruffy typical homeless man. The man had his share of problems. He told Jeff that even though he had some mental health issues, he still had big dreams of making something out of his life. Jeff appeared to be determined and positive, but then something started changing.
Jeff’s True Colors Show
Ed had high hopes for Jeff. He could see that this young man wasn’t someone destined for a lifetime on the streets. He was a guy who could truly get on his feet if he had lady luck in his corner. The two became friends and seeing each other on a daily basis. One day all of his feelings for Jeff melted away. Jeff took Ed to a high-end hotel and told him that he could make a bundle by standing outside of the door and asking people for money. Ed immediately saw a different side of this bright young man.
Ambitions To Lie
Jeff was a hit at the door and was able to pick up $26 dollars in only a half hour. To begin with, Ed was very impressed with the young man’s hustle. $50 dollars an hour isn’t at all a bad salary. Most people with homes were making a lot less. Things took a dark turn after Jeff told Ed that he’d be using this money to buy some illegal substances. He then went on to use the substance in front of Ed. It became quite clear that Jeff wasn’t the innocent young man that Ed thought he was.
Beggars With Home
Ed learned that when you’re homeless, you can’t take anyone at face value. One of the homeless people that he’d often meet with turned out not to be homeless at all. It was brought to light that he begged because he thought he can make more begging than at an actual job. The man in question was named Darren and he claimed that he could sometimes earn $800 in a single day by just walking around and asking people for money. Darren invited Ed to his home and his mind was absolutely blown.
Darren’s Beautiful Apartment
Ed never imagined that Darren would be living in such a nice home. He literally had everything that the average man would need. Darren had running water, a soft bed, hi-fi speakers and even video game systems. He was a living testament that a homeless person could be living a life of riches. It turned out that the government had given Darren the apartment after he was released from prison. Upon his release, he had issues keeping a job and decided to try his luck begging on the streets. As luck would have it, he’d be an amazing beggar.
Homeless On The Streets Of Glasgow
Ed took himself North to Scotland. Whilst in Glasgow, he noticed something very different about the homeless community there. The homeless rate isn’t much different from Manchester or London, but something was just extremely off. Then it struck him. The streets of Glasgow were completely empty in the night. This was probably for two reasons. Firstly, Glasgow is much colder than London and Manchester. Secondly, it is known for being quite dangerous there at night.
Life Inside A Homeless Shelter
Ed quickly learned Scotland is home to some of the most progressive laws when it comes to their homeless community. Like Sweden, they have the HouseFirst policy. This means that most homeless people don’t have to sleep on the streets. The city is decked out with a large number of homeless shelters. It wasn’t long before sitting on that sidewalk that Ed was directed to one of those homeless shelters. The shelter provided him with a hot meal and a place to rest his head.
Ed’s Helping Hand
While at the shelter, Ed met a man named Knoxy who would end up changing his whole perspective on homelessness. As it turns out, Knoxy was only a few years younger than Ed and had been homeless for 18-years. Knoxy didn’t exactly have the luck of the draw picked out for him when he was born. He came from a broken family and wasn’t given any direction in life. He eventually fell into a life of crime for awhile. Now in his thirties, Knoxy was hoping to improve his life.
Fixing Lives One At A Time
Knoxy wasn’t the only homeless person Ed met with an interesting story. When in Glasgow, he met a man who had just gotten kicked out of public housing and was made to fend for himself on the streets. The man had spent most of his life in and out of prison and now found himself part of one of Glasgow’s thriving shelter scenes. Ed didn’t want to see this man lose his chance to be somebody in this life and helped get him back into public housing.
Money Doesn’t Always Matter
Before going on his 60-day homeless adventure, Ed saw the homeless as people who just needed a meal and few bucks. Today, Ed knows that there is one thing that each of them needs to assure their survival and it isn’t food and money. These men need brotherly love and support. Money and a burger aren’t going to get them through their darkest hours. They need an arm around their shoulder and some words of encouragement. In the end, they need nothing more than someone to be there for them.
The Long Journey Home
Ed survived being homeless in the UK’s most hustle and bustle cities. When his 60 days were up, Ed donated his goods and headed back home. It was an emotional moment when he came home. His wife deeply embraced him and he was able to settle into regular life. Ed’s life was changed forever from that point on. He would never be able to ignore or push aside a homeless person again. It was likely pretty hard to sleep in his bed that night knowing that a lot of the men that he met are still sleeping on cold sidewalks.
Will Ed Start Giving More?
In sixty days, Ed met a lot of characters on the streets and each one came with their own epic tale. That isn’t the same man wrapped up in those dirty clothes. Every homeless person is different and as it turned out, some aren’t homeless at all. Like people with homes, homeless people should all be treated differently. Sadly, it is very hard to tell one case from the other when you’re simply walking by. With that, Ed said that he wouldn’t be giving any money to homeless people anytime soon.