Newcastle by night

Around 2,400 people are homeless in the North East.
Tonight there will be one more.

The housing and homeless charity Shelter published the results of an extensive research they made which conducted that the number of homeless people in the UK is 307,000. Which is larger than the population of Newcastle, reported the Chronicle.

The number of homeless people in the North East is around 2,400. Tonight, there will be one more rough sleeper in Newcastle.


Diary The journey of spending a night on the streets putting myself in the shoes of the people who spend most of their lives on the streets begins from Monument. With no metro running or any form of public transport, the only way of moving around is by feet. Being fortunate enough to have warm clothes on me and my phone and a book to keep me sane and give me something to do as time passes is a blessing that not many have.

The days are shorter and the nights are colder, the streets are empty but the Christmas decorations shine brightly through the windows of high street shops, reminding us of the most wonderful time of the year… For some of us.

Presents drawn on cards and posters around the city, the season of giving they call it and some people really do give. John Marshall from Newcastle upon Tyne, for example, have created with a friend a support group for homeless people called Newcastle Street Friends. Previously volunteering at other charity organisations, the two friends felt like more needed to be done so they took the matter into their own hands. Providing tents, sleeping bags, hats, gloves, socks, hand warmers, food, and drinks to those who are in need you can see them wandering the city every Saturday with other people who want to help and joined the party. "Homelessness is not all about people on drugs or drink we have people on the streets that have lost their house, their job, their family there is also people on the streets that have mental health problems as well," he says.


Diary Entry: For an hour now I've been walking around the city centre and I’m starting to feel tired and wanting to sit somewhere. After being able to enjoy the silence at the usually busy streets and the tranquil scenery of Quayside the cold really starts to settle in. Feeling it with my whole body regardless of the"gear" I'm wearing. Feelings of desperation creep in.
A map of Newcastle's city centre and the route I've been following
Tyneside Cinema, near Monument
Tyne Bridge, Newcastle

Homeless Link an organisation which goal is to end homelessness have published a while ago some data about the wellbeing state of the homeless people in the UK. After around 2,600 people have taken part in local health audits across the country to share their experiences of using health services, and the health problems they have the data was speaking for itself.

A staggering 80% reported some form of mental health issue, diagnosed or undiagnosed.

73% reported physical health problems of which 41% said it was a long-term problem.

Compared to data about the long-term physical health problems of the general population (GP) shows that again with homeless people they are more severe; 22.1% of them have joints and muscle related issues comparing to the 13,9% of the GP.

The proportion of homeless people with diagnosed mental health problems (45%) is nearly double that of the general population (around 25%). Many report often feeling stressed (73%), having difficulties sleeping (63,8%) and having suicidal thoughts (32,1%).

But these are all number on paper, fancy statistic that generalise an individual's issue. What really is scary is talking to one of these people and them openly discussing about that one time when they decided to cut their wrists with a piece of broken glass they’ve found on the street as it was 4am and they couldn’t wait for the shops to open in the morning.


Diary Entry: As it's not getting any warmer I’m considering taking advantage of my privileges and take shelter at a local McDonald's where I can get a coffee to warm me up and then continue with my quest.

But on my way, there I saw this guy snuggled up in a corner. Being 5,2'’ female I felt immediately intimidated. After ordering a coffee and sitting for few minutes I decided that since we’re in the same boat why not… I bought a meal and warm drink and approached the men on the street. And that’s how I met Steve (or this is the name he wanted me to use, he said it’s his grandpa’s). Yeah, you guessed right he is the guy I’m talking about it my previous entry of notes.

He was happy to share his story with me and all the shame and guilt he feels every day for being a disappointment to his family. He told me stories of old friends he meets on the street who are not able to recognise him, tales of old lovers who turned their back at him when he needed them, regrets over socialising with the wrong crowd at a young age and many more.

I couldn't say a word. For all, I know this all could've been an elaborate lie but to think that some people really experience this it is soul-wrecking. Such an advanced species climbed all the way to the top of the evolutionary tree/ladder whatever you call it. But where do we go from here? I thanked him for the company and I decided to walk a bit more as my muscles started to feel stiff from sitting in one place for so long.

As I was walking I was thinking about what happens when the music stops and the lights go out. When the artist is all alone and sees themselves in the mirror are they the person from the stage admired and adored by many or they're the reflection in the mirror staring into their soul? Exploring space, creating and destroying life, preserving what's left of ancient cultures to remind us where we come from only so others can blow those relics up in an act of madness calling their god's name so he can meet them at the gate, is this really human's legacy?

 It is really dangerous to be left alone with your thought at night.


Diary Entry: The cold is unbearable. I can't feel my feet or fingers I guess the fact that I was already having a cold when decided to do this isn’t helping much. I don’t think I will be able to make it through the night. I haven’t even opened the book because if I stay in one place it’s awfully cold and can’t be on my phone for long as my hand are getting stiff and cold. I’m fortunate enough to be able to book an Uber and go home to a warm bed, but many people don’t have this choice.                         

Detail of a building in Newcastle's city centre

There are million good causes that people are willing, would and will donate this Christmas in hope to bring a smile to someone's face or warm feeling to an animal in need, but let’s not forget about these people and creatures through the rest of the year.

A campaign led by the charity Changing Lives and backed by Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police is encouraging people to rethink of how they help homeless people. Instead of giving them money they promote an alternative way of helping them which can make a real change.

"We hope that Small Change or Real Change? will make people more aware of the alternatives to giving them money." Said Chief Executive of Changing Lives, Stephen Bell.

Newcastle city centre Chief Inspector, Dave Pickett, said: "We have been working very closely with the city council and Changing Lives on begging in Newcastle and fully support the campaign.

“Our priority will always be to ensure vulnerable people receive the appropriate support and this campaign is really about educating people as to the real picture of begging in the city.

If this is something that you’d like to support you can visit for more information.

If you’d like to support Shelter’s appeal you can visit or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3.

Or if none of this seems appealing to you but you still want to help you can visit Newcastle Street Friends group on Facebook and donate or join them on one of their outreach every Saturday, for more information: