By Luke Andrews
An adventurer and Guinness World Record holder has revealed that living on the UK’s streets was ‘more lucrative’ than he imagined.
He found that as well as gaining 11lb because passers-by kept giving him fast food, sandwiches, and burgers, he could also make up to £200 a night.
After living without a roof over his head for Channel 4’s series 60 Days on the Streets, which will be shown next week, Ed said that some parts were ‘easier’ than he expected.
‘I think I was shocked by the amount of food that was available,’ he said.
‘I thought I was going to lose loads of weight and it was going to be harder to physically survive – but in fact, there was an abundance of people wanting to help, in all three cities.
‘In Glasgow, I witnessed 26 volunteers handing out food one night, and there were only two rough sleepers there. I even met one homeless man who complained the public ‘overfeed’ him.’
‘And begging seemed to be more lucrative than I ever imagined.
‘It was common in London for people to make £100 to £200 in an evening, which is more than the average person earns in work.’
One homeless man he accompanied in Manchester made £20 in 30 minutes when asking passers by for money for a hostel – although in reality it was to fund his crack cocaine addiction.
Comparing the cities, he said living on the streets in Manchester was ‘manic’ as spice ‘laid waste to sections of the homeless community’.
‘You see them in the main squares, frozen like zombies.’
In London he struck up more friendships but saw a large contrast between rich and poor.
‘I remember living on the Strand, near all the theatres,’ he said.
‘I remember sitting in the doorway of Halifax and hordes of people coming out of the Adelphi Theatre.
‘The triviality of what these people were talking about really struck me. I just remember getting almost angry at how inane the conversations were.’
Ed said he was most shocked by how resigned some homeless people were to their situation.
‘I had assumed no one would want to be on the streets if they had a choice – but actually, some of the community prefer life on the streets living on one’s wits, to one in temporary accommodation navigating the benefits system.’
After being on the streets, Ed said he would not give directly to homeless people, but does believe they need a great deal more support to help them escape the situation.
‘At a deep level, it’s not a lifestyle any of them would have chosen for themselves – even if now they are resigned to it.
‘All of them have been driven to the streets by tragedy in their past – whether it’s something that happened in their childhood, a parent that’s an addict, or an abusive partner.’
Around 4,000 to 5,000 people sleep on the streets each night, according to magazine Big Issue, which tries to help homeless people by asking them to sell its publication.
It also said that 78,930 people were in temporary accommodation, meaning families are in shelters, hostels, B&Bs, and refuges, among others.
Shelter UK, a charity that campaigns to help homeless people, said one in every 200 people in the UK is homeless, or 320,000 people.
The adventurer holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon river.
The program will air on Thursday at 9pm on Channel 4.
Who is Ed Stafford?
Ed Stafford walked the 4,000 mile course of the Amazon river
An adventurer and former British army captain, Ed may be best known for trekking the 4,000 mile length of the Amazon river.
He filmed and blogged his dangerous journey, where he avoided large snakes, roasted monkeys, and met people living in the rainforest, which was turned into a Discovery Channel documentary.
The Newcastle University geography graduate decided to walk the river after helping to run expeditions for young volunteers in Belize.
He had thought about being a stockbroker, after spending four years in the army, but took the position abroad with Trekforce instead.
The explorer now lives in rural Leicestershire with his wife Laura Bingham, who cycled across South America in 2016 to raise awareness for a children’s charity, and his son Ran.
Ed’s 2011 documentary on the Amazon was sold in over 100 countries and was translated into Mandarin, Ukrainian, Polish and Spanish.
He was awarded the Guinness World Record for being the first person to walk the Amazon, as well as European Adventurer of the Year and the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for his contribution to the subject through exploration.
He has also done seven other survival series. The first, called Naked and Marooned, saw him stranded without clothes, food, water and tools on an uninhabited island for 60 days.
In the series ‘Left for Dead’, Ed was dropped in a remote location and given ten days to find a checkpoint, meet his extraction transport, and get out alive.
There are seven books by Ed including ‘Ultimate Adventure Guide: The Bucket List for the Brave’ and ‘Adventures for a lifetime’.