British army veteran praises 'kind' people after spending the day 'homeless' in Berkhamsted to raise awareness of ex-forces homelessness
As part of his fundraising Ben sat on the High Street from 9am till 5pm to raise awareness and money for the homeless armed forces veterans
A British army veteran from Northchurch has praised the 'kind and generous' people in Berkhamsted after spending the day 'homeless' to raise awareness of homelessness amongst army veterans.
Ben Morton, a former captain in the British Army – and a veteran of the Gulf war – spent the day yesterday (Monday, November 8) on the High Street in Berkhamsted to raise awareness of the problem, and raise money for a fundraiser he is doing later this month.
The CEO Sleepout is a charity set up to fight homelessness and poverty.
As part of his fundraising Ben, who served five years in the army with two deployments to Iraq, decided to do something extra to raise awareness of homelessness, and on Monday, he sat on the High Street from 9am till 5pm to raise awareness and money for the homeless armed forces veterans.
He said: "The people of Berkhamsted were incredibly kind and generous.
"Whilst some people avoided eye contact and others walked away from me there were many who stopped to chat and donate.
"Huge thanks to everyone who donated online and in person. Whilst we've not yet got an official total, it's looking like people have donated over £1000... and I'll be match funding every penny from my business.
"It was an eye-opening experience. At times it was quite uncomfortable, especially when there was a spell of 20 to 30 minutes when nobody stopped to speak to me, some avoided eye-contact and others looked at me with what I interpreted as pity… or even disgust.
"I realised that it can be very easy to judge homeless people, and I also realised that I was judging people for avoiding looking at me.
"At other times it was a fantastic experience when people stopped to chat and donate. There were some incredible acts of kindness and people going out of their way to come and talk to me, and to donate, because they had seen the posts on Facebook.
"I was lucky in that the weather was mild and dry. At the end of the day, my only discomfort was due to sitting on a hard floor for eight hours and feeling very self-conscious and insecure at times.
"All of which pales into insignificance compared to those genuine rough sleepers who do not get to go home to a warm house, a hot meal and a comfy bed as I did.
"The other interesting insight was how I felt when people walked past me either eating some hot food or looking in their purse or wallet.
"I was never as hungry as I imagine a rough sleeper would be, but it made me think how they must feel seeing somebody walk past them tucking into some hot take-away food.
"Similarly, when I saw people walking towards me with their purse open I felt excited that they were about to donate, only to realise they were just getting some money out ready to go into a shop.
"Again, if I were genuinely homeless and need money for a meal or shelter and can imagine how horrible that must be."
Ben wanted to give a special mention to some of the kind things he noticed yesterday (Monday).
He said: "Archie, the six-year-old who stopped and asked if we could be friends.
"The teenage girl from Ashlyns School who said she only had 15p and asked if that was OK. It absolutely was.
"All of the elderly who gave one or two pounds. For many of them, I assume it was part of their pension for which I'm hugely grateful.
"The lady who saw Richard Hillier's Facebook post and brought down her entire coin collection still in the jar.
"And John, another veteran from a military family who stopped to chat and said he would send me a copy of his uncle's diary from the D-Day landings.
"Thank you everyone, on behalf of all those you will help."
Ben is hoping to raise £2,000, to support his fundraising visit: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BenMorton7.