The Price of Homelessness

A film-maker researching a documentary on homelessness was found dead in Newcastle. He had hoped to live like the homeless do and braved freezing temperatures to live like them.

“I am about to go and spend a week being homeless in the West End of Newcastle,” he said.

“I will sleep rough, scrounge for my food, access all the services that other homeless individuals in the West End use. I will interact with as many homeless people as possible and immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can.”

He said: “I hope that you perceive this to be a fearless approach to a story. “It certainly feels brave from where I’m sat right now.

“I am about to embark upon this documentary tomorrow morning. It has certainly caused a huge amount of trepidation amongst my family and friends who do think it is a brave thing to do. That is the impression I want to leave you with about my willingness to get to the heart of a story.”

It is believed that in his quest to live like the homeless that he died of hypothermia.

His last tweet was asking if a follower of his project could get him a sleeping bag. So if you know any service that gets clothes and sleeping materials to those who need it, do so. And support your shelters.


  1. Hunt says

    I’m sure you can tell me more about it than I can tell you, but from watching various survival shows, it’s clear that hypothermia is a pretty insidious thing, since it takes out your ability to think rationally before it kills you. Then you stop shivering, start to feel sleepy, close your eyes, and you’re finished.

    From my vast survival show-watching knowledge base, the best thing to do if you’re stuck without adequate clothing is to 1) not go to sleep, 2) periodically do shallow squats, which exercises the large lower body muscle groups, generating heat.

  2. lorn says

    As with so many other things this guys desire to highlight the plight of the homeless was a laudable idea but his execution was abysmal. The long term homeless are a treasure trove of practical information about surviving in difficult situations.

    Unfortunately this gentleman lacked a guide to give him the specific techniques for making it. He failed to do his research and to make connection before he jumped into it. I assume he understood that people quickly become homeless and that he could just jump in and cope. In my experience homelessness is very often the destination of a slow process of life turning against them that allows considerable amounts of time to learn and experiment with something far short of finding yourself alone on a dark street with nothing but the clothes on your back.

    It is possible to live the homeless life to gain an appreciation of and report the hardships but you don’t do it this way. IMHO you would do well to start by making friends with some homeless people. Spend time with them. Listen. Find a couple of old-timers who have spent a few years on the streets.

    There is a learning curve. Get ahead of it by picking up tips before you need them. Little things make big differences:

    Newspaper makes good insulation and you can wad it up and flatten it again to increase its insulation capacity. Wearing loose clothing you wrap sheet around your arms, legs and torso. It is a lot easier to do it after you do it a few times. Practice before you are cold and dead tired.

    Cardboard boxes are a poor man’s tent and quite warm. Four or more layers of corrugated cardboard keep you well insulated from the cold ground.

    Sleeping under a discarded mattress or wrapped in old carpeting is a way to stay warm.

    It also helps to read up, and practice, survival techniques before you get out there. A tip from spelunkers is to cut a smallish hole in a garbage bag and wear it as a poncho. You then sit with legs drawn under the bag. Just that is fairly warm. Control the bottom edge and head-hole to limit condensation so you stay dry. A small candle placed between the legs and under the bag is enough to warm a person even when borderline hypodermic. I have used this setup for people who fall into very cold water.

    I’m not intending this as a manual. Rather, I’m suggesting that survival on the streets is a skill set that can be learned like any other skill set. There are sources written and a huge pool of knowledge in the homeless culture. Survival on the streets is not something you undertake in anything but an idea setting without some basic understanding.

    Getting through a cold night is a matter of having understanding and something to work with. In the longer term it is much more complicated and nuanced. Look at a bag lady and marvel at her survival skills. Often alone, usually unarmed, an elderly lady, with little more than materials other people discard she can stay alive in a hostile environment. She has learned and adapted to her environment. She knows things you can’t even imagine. She is doing something that would likely get you killed if you didn’t have someone there to show you the ropes. Think about that next time you see a homeless person.

    This gentleman may have got away with his experiment in Key West Florida but he clearly lacked the skills necessary for where he was. Even homelessness requires that a person adapt and learn. Life is both complicated and dangerous.

  3. Hunt says

    Good comment. I’ve kind of developed an armchair interest in survival skills, probably mostly because I’m addicted to survival shows, but in a real ordeal I’m sure I’d still be scared shitless, even if jut homeless on the streets of a city. There are of course particular dangers to that situation, since not only are you fighting your environment, you’re also potentially at odds with your fellow homeless and any passing criminal who might choose to take advantage of you. (Being careful not to equal the homeless with criminals.)

    I think it behooves anyone who is an outdoorsy type to gain at least basic survival skills, particularly if you spend time in arid environments. Almost anywhere can be hostile, but if you lose it in a dry environment you can literally be dead within a day or two.

  4. Hunt says

    Yeah, because discussing how the homeless might survive winter nights somehow betrays the ideal of ending homelessness. Giliell, you’re the typical brainless leftist. I mean, I’m left-wing, but you’re stupid left-wing, so engrossed with politically correct thought policing you’re willing to trample useful discussion on your way to fulfilling ideology.

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