’60 Days On The Streets’: Ed Stafford wants to humanise addiction

Ed Stafford slept rough for two months in an experiment for Channel 4. Some argue the documentary is exploitative of homeless people, but Ed tells The Big Issue he's cast a much-needed light on Britain's homelessness crisis

Last year explorer Ed Stafford announced he would sleep rough for two months to investigate the reality of being homeless in the UK.

The former army officer took to the streets of Manchester, London and Glasgow to hear the stories of people who had fallen through the cracks and found themselves homeless.

The programme did not deal with the structural causes of homelessness, like Universal Credit, a lack of affordable housing, insufficient mental health care services and cuts to local authority budgets.

Speaking to The Big Issue, Stafford insisted that he is an explorer, not an expert – and so is hesitant to speak as an authority on homelessness following his experience.

But he met many long-term homeless people, plenty of whom suffered addiction issues, and put a spotlight on their stories as people – not statistics.

Stafford said: “My hope is in seeing the footage people will be moved to see a very human side to addiction, rather than being judgmental.”

The explorer claimed to be under no illusions in terms of the difference between his two month experiment and the lives of truly homeless rough sleepers.”Everything has to be put massively in context,” he explained.

“I didn’t have any of the mental strains that somebody who is genuinely sleeping rough has. I had a wife and a little boy to go back to and I could call it quits at any point and go home, with the security of knowing I had a nice house to go home to.

“Like everyone, I have seen homelessness rise over the last years. And it seemed to be getting worse faster. How has the situation got to this, why are there so many people on the street?

“I thought it would be a huge challenge to sleep rough for 60 days to try and find out a little bit more about this world.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
Find your vendor
How we live now: Poverty and hunger in 2019