Hungry and helpless: Rough sleepers' fears ahead of harsh winter

Mark Dergby, a former acrobat who is now homeless 

Mark Dergby, a former acrobat who is now homeless - Credit: Ben Hardy

As the nights draw in and the weather turns cold and wet, those sleeping rough are bracing themselves for another harsh winter. 

A walk around the city is met with the sight of some sleeping in tents in shop doorways.

Others only have a sleeping bag to keep them warm.

Someone can be classed as homeless but have somewhere to stay – either in temporary accommodation, some of which is provided by the council, or sofa surfing.

This is the case for Mark Digby, 58, a former acrobat who travelled as far as New Zealand and Australia in his heyday. 

Homeless people sheltering from the rain in London Street

Homeless people have been sheltering from the rain in London Street - Credit: Ben Hardy

Mr Digby, who worked for a theatre company called Ra-Ra Zoo, now spends his time between a temporary flat accommodation and the street. 

He said: "I used to travel around the world and now I'm just a beggar on the street. It's a bit of a come down for me.

"Being on the street in the rain is not fun at all. You only know what it is like if you experience it yourself." 

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Mr Digby's friend Mark Wallace, 40, is a Big Issue seller and says he is used to going without food. 

Mark Wallace, a homeless Big Issue seller 

Mark Wallace, a homeless Big Issue seller - Credit: Ben Hardy

Both usually shelter in the entrance to the former Jack Willis store in London Street as they watch thousands of shoppers pass every day.

Mr Wallace says he has had people urinating on him when he is sleeping in the past, as well as other homeless people stealing from him. 

Eddie Stannard, 46, also finds himself on the streets after a complicated history.

Eddie Stannard, a homeless man in Norwich

Eddie Stannard, a homeless man in Norwich - Credit: Ben Hardy

Mr Stannard said he lived in accommodation five years ago but now finds himself on the streets after a relapse following the murder of his twin brother Steve in November 2016.

"I had a bad year and wanted to stab myself at one point," Mr Stannard admitted.

"It's always worse when the weather turns. It's wet and cold. It feels like there is no help.

"There are not enough signs for where to go for help. I would like homeless people to be heard more and have more of a voice."

How homeless people can get help this winter

Commissioned by Norwich City Council, Pathways is a collaboration between the authority and six other local organisations who work together to help homeless people and those with complex needs in the city.

St Martins Housing Trust has urged anyone sleeping rough to contact the Pathways team who provide accommodation, advice and support.

Nobody makes it their life ambition to become a rough sleeper, says Dr Jan Sheldon

A homeless person in Norwich - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This winter, the charity is once again running its Short Break initiative where people are put in hotels on a short-term basis until more permanent accommodation can be found. 

As the winter approaches, the charity extends its outreach works to cover evenings.

People experiencing homelessness can receive a clothing voucher redeemable at the St Martins charity shop in Anglia Square, where they can choose warm clothes and new toiletries.

Homeless people can also get a shower, hot drink and food from The Arc at Pottergate, run by the Salvation Army. 

The Feed also runs a community fridge and provides regular hot meals for homeless people.

St Martins' freephone number can be accessed on 0800 905 5413.

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