"I came here to run away from my problems," says Mark, looking out over the River Yare on a grey, drizzly morning.

"But I just ended up bringing them with me.

"If anything, they got worse."

Mark Ferris is in a homeless shelter for a third time.

Norwich Evening News: Mark FerrisMark Ferris (Image: William Warnes)

The 37-year-old has been sleeping in a bed at the St Martins hub in Recorder Road for two weeks.

The reason? 

"Alcohol," he admits.

"This time was a really bad slip. 

"I had a place to stay and a job, but I had one drink and I couldn't stop. 

"I just wanted to block everything out.

"I'm not a bad person. Alcohol is just my downfall."

Norwich Evening News: The St Martins Hub at Recorder RoadThe St Martins Hub at Recorder Road (Image: Google Maps)

Mark's path to homelessness began two years ago when he came to Norwich from Dublin to live with a friend.

But scrapes with the police and other personal circumstances saw him end up bedding down for the night in a tent or out in the open under bridges and meadows.

"It can get very lonely on the streets," he reflects, lighting a cigarette. 

"Between 10pm and 1am it's fine because you're around other people. 

"But after that the horrible suicidal thoughts start to kick in. 

"That's when I just want to put my head down wherever I can."

Norwich Evening News: A rough sleeper in NorwichA rough sleeper in Norwich (Image: saints4757)

READ MORE: £1.3m initiative introduces new homes for rough sleepers

He pauses as he takes a drag from his cigarette.

"I was eaten alive this summer," he says as he lifts up his trouser leg to reveal dozens of insect bites.

"I was sleeping on benches, by campfires and under trees for five days. 

"It was awful."

With a bed, a place to wash and a warm space to stay, the Irishman's pod at the Recorder Road Hub is small but cosy.

The site is manned by specialist staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Norwich Evening News: Dr Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer of St MartinsDr Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer of St Martins (Image: St Martins)

His latest spell on the streets prompted him to initially reach out to The Salvation Army's Arc in Pottergate - a service which offers hot breakfasts, lunch and sandwiches.

He then referred himself to St Martins in the hope of being offered an emergency bed.

"They all give me amazing support," Mark says. 

"There is always someone there. 

"The issue is that not everyone wants their help. 

"Some people like the lifestyle too much. 

"They are addicted to drugs or alcohol and are afraid they won't be able to live that way.

"But the fact is they give you a bed, clothes and provide volunteering opportunities with a view to getting you employed in the future.

"That's all we need at the end of the day and people can't ignore the help that's there."

Norwich Evening News: St Martins' Bishopbridge House hostel in Gas HillSt Martins' Bishopbridge House hostel in Gas Hill (Image: Newsquest)

READ MORE: Former rough sleeper is 'genuinely happy' and 8 months sober in his new home

Mark's plans for the future are full of optimism and hope - with the 37-year-old even signing up for volunteer work with the homelessness charity.

But one thing stands in his way of breaking the cycle: his dependence on alcohol.

"I want my life back," Mark says, with a slight croak in his voice.

"Everything was in my hands and one slip ruined it.

"I know it's my fault that I'm here.

"But now I want to stop drinking and get back into work.

"The support I need is there and it's up to me to make the best of all the opportunities I'm offered.

"I've got a big old heart and I really do hope I can turn my life around."

Pathways workers from St Martins

The Pathways partnership project is made up seven local organisations, including St Martins.

Nina Graham and Emily Randall are two of the charity's team who venture out between 6am and 9am for the street count. 

Norwich Evening News: Emily Randall (left) and Nina Graham (right)Emily Randall (left) and Nina Graham (right) (Image: William Warnes)

"We all come together to ensure people don't fall through the gaps," said Emily. 

"The location of rough sleepers is reported via Streetlink or directly to us. 

"Rain or shine, we will then go out to find them, engage and see how we can support them."

Hotspots can vary from public parks to church courtyards - with some rough sleepers feeling safer in the public view and others preferring to be hidden.

Norwich Evening News: A location in Norwich believed to be formerly occupied by a rough sleeperA location in Norwich believed to be formerly occupied by a rough sleeper (Image: William Warnes)

Once located, Nina, Emily and the rest of the team will offer support and refer them to whatever service they may need.

This may include signposting mental health support, calling ambulances, referring them to hot food at The Salvation Army's Arc or offering shelter at the 33-bed Bishopbridge House hostel in Gas Hill.

"Every person is different and some might not want our help," said Nina. 

"But we will keep trying to build trust with them so that one day they might.

"There is a real misunderstanding of rough sleepers among the public.

Norwich Evening News: Streetcount is conducted between 6am and 9amStreetcount is conducted between 6am and 9am (Image: William Warnes)

READ MORE: Concerns persist as homelessness charity's plans for sheltered housing lodged

"Some see them as drug addicts and drunks without looking at the person underneath.

"At the end of the day, they are human beings who need support.

"And we want to help them. That is why we are here."

Prince William's pledge to end homelessness

The Prince of Wales unveiled plans earlier this year to end homelessness in the UK. 

The campaign known as 'Homewards' looks to bring together organisations and people to find local solutions to rough sleeping.

"I think this is possible to an extent," said rough sleeper Mark Ferris.

"The issue is that a lot of people don't want to accept help.

"I've seen people offered support and I've even tried to encourage them to get it myself

"But they're scared of losing the lifestyle they currently have.

"But for those who want to be helped, this could be a really big help."