A firefighter who experienced homelessness returned to the streets last week to raise awareness of the plight of thousands of people sleeping rough across the country.
Worthing Blue Watch Crew Commander Steve Foster spent three nights under the stars with fellow watch member Matt Harris from Wednesday to raise money for Royal British Legion Industries. Both served in the Royal Engineers before joining the fire and rescue service.
Steve said: “Being both ex-military we thought this would be a walk in the park. But by two in the morning on our first night we realised it was anything but. It was extremely cold, and we both found it incredibly hard to get warm and stay warm, and there was no way we could get comfortable. We both lay there until the sun came up, by which time we were absolutely exhausted.”
Having spent their first night out on Kingley Vale to ensure they adhered to social distancing guidelines, the pair then spent their second night at Goring Gap, where they not only had the wind coming in off the sea to deal with, but also a large number of rats that decided to visit their camp in the early hours of the morning.
On the third and final night on Friday, Steve was joined by his 11-year-old daughter Eloise, who had spent the day fundraising at school.
Steve said: “She was absolutely amazing, and such an inspiration. She said to me, ‘the only time we should look down on people is when we are helping them back up’, which I thought summed it up really nicely. I am so incredibly proud of her.
“So far we have raised just over £1,000, which is far and beyond our initial target of £150. They say it costs around £220 to get someone off the streets, and fed and clothed for the night. So hopefully our three miserable nights out under the stars will help at least four people on their own journey away from the streets.”
Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, said: “There are so many other ways that Steve and Matt could have chosen to raise money for RBLI, but taking that step to sleep out under the stars, during the unpredictable March weather, demonstrates the resolve Steve has to help people out of a situation he knows only too well himself.
“As a firefighter, Steve’s job is to help people in their hour of need. But he wanted to use his own experience of homelessness as a force for good to try and break down that stigma that is still associated with people experiencing homelessness.
“I do not underestimate just how difficult it would have been for Steve to take the decision to take part in this event, but we as a service are all incredibly proud of what he, Matt and Eloise have achieved.”
You can support Steve’s fundraising here.