'I get to go home, but they don't'

By Callum Tulley
BBC Scotland

image captionJonathan Kennard is pictured after waking at 04:40 as he neared the end of his challenge

A student has spent a week sleeping rough on the streets of Aberdeen in an effort to better understand what it means to be homeless.

Jonathan Kennard also did not eat for seven days, losing about 9lbs (4kg). The University of Chester student described the experience as "cold, hard and depressing".

Jonathan, from Nottingham, had spent time sleeping rough in both Liverpool and Stirling in previous years, but expected Aberdeen to provide the most testing conditions he had experienced.

The 25-year-old, who now wants to start a charity for the homeless, seemed in high spirits as he spoke to me before his trip.

He explained: "I want to connect with more homeless people and find out what they're experiencing and what really needs to be done to help them.

image captionKennard said the howling winds and heavy rain made it almost impossible to sleep

"I want to be more relatable to homeless people so I'm not just on an academic high horse, but someone who has actually done it as well.

"I feel what's needed is people who understand the services, but who also understand homelessness. I'm a bit nervous, but I'm excited as well".

However, when I caught up with him again several days later, his main emotion seemed to be one of anguish.

He had made his bed in a narrow opening under a derelict part of a bridge by some railway tracks. The stench of human waste was potent.

Far from the person I had previously spoken to, he seemed disjointed and depressed.

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He said: "Now I'm just counting down the days to go home. I really do not like it.

"There's no comfort, there's no purpose, you're literally just surviving every day but it's like what for? Why bother? Where's this going?

"There's the paranoia, the cold, the wet, the noise, and it makes you too tired to do anything. It's been very grim."

image captionJonathan said the experience was a lot to process

Jonathan said he could see why people found it difficult to get back on their feet after becoming homeless, and that the constant struggle for comfort leads to craving escapism.

"Many people are ashamed of being homeless and that just erodes your self esteem over time," he said.

"Not being able to get a proper wash anywhere, it just stops you wanting to talk to people and go to appointments that are necessary for sorting your life out".

Homeless in Scotland

Homeless charity Shelter Scotland estimates there are about 5,000 people sleeping on Scotland's streets every year.

According to the Scottish government's figures in June, the number of homeless applications rose for the first time in nine years.

They showed applications to local authorities rose by 1% to 34,972 between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018.

In response, the Scottish government said it was committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good.

We arranged to meet again, this time at 04:30. But on arrival it was clear he had managed to snatch some rare sleep.

As he came round the reality of waking up homeless became clear.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" he shouted. "Oh my gosh, where? No! No! Please! Please!"

Once he realised he was safe, he explained of his reaction.

"It's the fear that you might get mugged because you're not behind a locked door," he said.

'Significant impact'

"If you hear some people chatting they could just be friendly students, but to you it could be someone who's coming to rob you. It really is quite scary.

"At the end of this I get to go home, but they don't."

We met one last time as his time on the streets neared its end.

The social policy, health and housing student's lasting hope is that those in authority will study how other countries and cities deal with homelessness, in an effort to benefit everyone.

He explained: "I'm feeling quite tired and emotional.

"It's a lot to process. I just want to get rested up and hopefully I can make some significant impact to the homeless scene in Britain."

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