Ex-British Army head sleeps rough on Norwich streets

The former head of the British Army slept rough on the streets of Norwich at the weekend to raise money for the YMCA and to get a glimpse into what life is like for the homeless.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the new president of YMCA Norfolk, was joined by Norfolk High Sheriff Charles Barratt and Judge Philip Curl.

The trio raised more than �5,000 for the YMCA and other local charities and saw first hand what police officers and street pastors get up to on a Saturday night in Norwich.

Sir Richard, who was Chief of the General Staff – the head of the army – from 2006 until August last year, said: 'We had an interesting evening on Prince of Wales Road, which was absolutely fascinating.

'I think the others have seen it before, but I certainly hadn't. We were with the police and the street pastors, doing a fantastic job.

'The thing which one noticed were that there were a lot of youngsters thoroughly enjoying themselves, but in the doorways there were a quite a sprinkling of people for whom life was not so good and they were homeless and I think that was the experience we wanted to share.'

It was Mr Barratt's idea, who explained he then 'roped in' Sir Richard and Judge Curl, with television crews following them around.

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Sir Richard, who lives near Norwich, added: 'I think inevitably it was a little artificial in so far as the television cameras served as a bit of a magnet for some of the younger people after a sherbet or two, but it served the purpose, which was really our intention to draw some more attention to the homeless.

'It begs the question why are they there, what more can we do?

'I don't know what the answers are but I think one is trying to find out and I think the public sector, the private sector and the charitable sectors have all got to try to raise its game, to bring these people in and give them a second chance.'

Sir Richard said he had met a couple of homeless people who were ex-soldiers and said it was a 'very interesting experience'.

Mr Barratt said: 'I have done quite a lot with the homeless during my High Sheriff year because it's been my charity and I've learned so much.'

Judge Curl praised the patience of the police as he saw them arrest a drunken mother and said, while it was tragic, it was interesting to see it from the other side.

He said: 'It certainly brought it home and I think the patience and professionalism of the police was very impressive.'

After a night sleeping in cardboard boxes in the churchyard of St Peter Mancroft, Sir Richard added: 'I think we all appreciate the term rough sleeper a bit more.'

He said in his role as YMCA Norfolk president his goal was to provide accommodation for some of those rough sleepers.

He said: 'The people we saw out there who are homeless need a second chance. For some it is a third chance. We want to do what we can to get those folks off the street.'

Are you raising money for a good cause? Call Evening News reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk