Duo felt vulnerable sleeping rough in Sidmouth for charity

Tim Swarbrick and Roger Worthington slept rough to raise awareness of homelessness charity Gateway

Tim Swarbrick and Roger Worthington slept rough to raise awareness of homelessness charity Gateway - Credit: Archant

Volunteers working to tackle homelessness got first-hand experience of the terrible conditions when they slept rough in Sidmouth in the freezing cold.

Roger Worthington and Tim Swarbrick wrapped up in their sleeping bags and found shelter in Connaught Gardens to raise awareness of Gateway.

The Sidmouth-based charity was set up in response to the deaths of two rough sleepers, Tommy Duffy and Bradley Forrest, in 2015 and now works to prevent future cases.

Retired police superintendent Tim, whose wife Lois manages the Sid Valley Food Bank, said: “One thing that struck me was how vulnerable I felt sleeping in a public place.

“We planned to stay at Port Royal [where Tommy Duffy was found], but wanted to hide away so we couldn’t be found.

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“People who sleep rough must be under constant stress, which can’t help with any psychological problems they have.”

The duo slept out last Friday ahead of Homelessness Sunday (January 22), when a service will be held at Sidmouth’s Methodist Church at 6.30pm.

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Roger, whose wife Ann founded Gateway with Lesley Crawford, said he and Tim had advantages over someone who had been living homeless long-term – their equipment was dry and they had a decent meal before they set out.

Two men arrived in the gardens at midnight and started playing music. Tim said they clearly meant no harm, but he still would not have felt safe sleeping knowing they were nearby.

“There were people walking through the gardens,” added Roger, who works for the Forestry Commission. “You don’t know how they’re going to react – if they’ll be hostile or sympathetic. It gave me a new perspective on homelessness.”

Ann said there is currently no-one sleeping rough on Sidmouth’s streets, but there is ‘hidden’ homelessness and a number of people who are vulnerably housed.

“Our work focuses on stopping people ending up on the streets,” she added. “That’s much better than picking them up when they are there.

“We’re also working to support people we’ve helped into housing.”

Anyone in need of advice or support from Gateway can contact Ann on 07980 023202 or Lesley on 07470 004877.

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