Sunday 7 January 2018


Beverley Lyons
A Scots reality star turned filmmaker ended up sleeping rough on the streets at Christmas to document the plight of our homeless over the festive period.
James English, an ex model from Glasgow who most recently dated Kerry Katona and appeared in reality series Glow admits he had to resort to defacating in a bag for the life changing experience.
James slept rough without a phone and with no money or food for seven days during the run up to and including a Christmas Day - but he doesn’t want applauded for his bravery.
He claims he was doing it to highlight the plight of Glasgow’s homeless and show everyone the great work that is done for them by Scots charities for a new documentary.
James, who used to have a gambling addiction and drink and drug problem, admits that the whole experience has left an indelible mark on him and he’s still trying to adjust to being back in his comfort zone.
He said: “My head is messed up now that I’m back into normality. You feel it’s a world within a world where you don’t exist in the human race and it’s such a weird feeling.”
I can see why people turn to drink and drugs. I’d never promote drinks and drugs but when people have that kind of life they have nothing. It’s definitely been an awakening.”
James grew a beard but also wore a fake Santa beard and hat during his week on the streets so no one would recognise him.
He said he spent his time moving from street to street trying to find somewhere to rest his head as well as begging for money in between.
He said: “At first you can’t sleep and you hear every noise. Every time you close your eyes you feel as if there is someone standing over you. There are shelters but there are only thirty or forty beds so you go into bus stops or doorways. I would go to the Buchanan Galleries and beg for money and sometimes slept under a bridge. I got eighty two pounds during the week and I think that was because it was Christmas and there were more people wanting to give. I didn’t take my phone and I had only the clothes on my back and a sleeping bag as well as a Go Pro provided by my cameraman Gordon Campbell to film it all. I was lucky because it wasn’t too cold last week but it has got colder since.”
James was given wet wipes and a survival kit with a toothbrush and toothpaste in it by some charity workers but he said he didn’t shower once during the whole experience.
He said: ”There are showers at some places but I didn’t want to deprive others of them.”
He also found himself caught short with no where to go on Christmas Eve and ended up defacating in a bag down a lane.
He said: “I had to do it. It’s survival and there’s nothing you can do. It had to be done because everywhere was closed and there was no stopping it. I felt dirty but there was no option.”
James had Christmas dinner at a shelter. He said: “They fed two or three hundred people and there were Christmas songs. There was a lot of violence around about Black Friday. I was with two friends on Buchanan street and saw them being attacked. Some people told real horror stories about getting hit and battered, set on fire or getting peed on . They are the real heroes and became my friends.”
“I realised it wasn’t all alcoholics and junkies who use food banks. A lot of people had two jobs and still can’t afford to feed their families.”
“I went in blind and kept thinking that if my family and friends hadn’t been around when I was gambling that I could have been there.”
When I got home on Boxing Day I just felt so strange about everything. I was sad because I knew I had a family to go home to.”
James is keeping in touch with the friends he made and is trying to help them since the experience.
He said: “I want to say a massive thanks to the City Mission, The Invisibles also Second Chance Scotland and the Humanists who were working round the clock in Glasgow given out shelter, food and clothes every day and night and talking with homless people. The world needs more people like them as they do so much work and the majority of these organisations are non funded so they do it off their own back. The Lodging House Mansion there is open 365 days a year offering a bed for the homless and food and these people are amazing.
“And down Cadogan street there is a diffident charity organisation every night doing a soup kitchen or handing out clothes
while Street Connect do 12 week drug programmes to help with people with addictions.”
He added: “I was only there for seven days but old Pete under the bridge has been there for twenty years. I’ve only scratched the surface and hope that when we release the documentary at the end of January that something more can be done.”
From Scotland with Love - the
Excerpts of this article have since appeared in the Daily Record.