What does it really feel like to live on the streets?
PUBLISHED: 10:08 26 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:08 26 December 2019
Earlier this winter a group of men from Suffolk spent four nights and five days living and sleeping rough on the streets of Ipswich, to really experience what it feels like to be homeless.
Three of the men involved in the '4 nights, 5 days' experiment already volunteer with the homeless in the town centre and were inspired to take on the challenge by rough sleepers, who would constantly say to them: "You should try living like this".
One of the men involved Dan Somers, said: "I have spoken to someone who has been rough sleeping in Ipswich for 27 years, how is that acceptable?"
To get an authentic experience of what it feels like to be homeless their group did not tell any authorities or charities what they were doing.
Mr Somers said: "We ignored everything that we knew and mimicked what it would be like to be kicked out on to the streets of Ipswich.
"We found that lots of the services out there are fantastic, but one of the underlying problems is people with anxiety don't want to queue up for a room at a night shelter each evening.
"If people get rejected once they won't try and get into a shelter again."
Each of the men that took part in the challenge focussed on the different problems people face living on the streets, including mental health, addiction, and coming out of prison and the military.
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Having previously spoken about his own issues with his mental health, Mr Somers admitted he really struggled whilst spending time on the streets.
He said: "I felt like people were looking at me funny, I didn't like it when people banged into me and I thought people were crossing the road to avoid us.
"I can see how your mental health would deteriorate quickly living on the street."
Read more: Why men should talk about their mental health
Despite the difficulties the men faced, Mr Somers said that 90% of the people they spoke to when living on the streets were lovely.
He had particular praise for the security staff at Sailmakers shopping centre who he said were "firm but fair" in allowing the homeless to charge their phones and use the toilets, as long as they did not cause trouble.
The four men involved in the challenge all agreed that the homeless would not go hungry living on the streets of Ipswich and that one of the hardest issues was getting hold of something to drink.
"Everyone on the street is different and would all benefit from different things, from borrowing a phone for a call - to buying someone a bottle of water, chatting to someone is one of the most valued things," said Mr Somers.
The group are now hosting a meeting where they hope to share their findings with the police, retailers, and charities and hope to come up with a six-month or a 12-month plan to improve the situation for people that are living on the streets.
The meeting will take place on Thursday, January 23 at the Ip-City Centre in Ipswich, you can register to attend here.
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