Formerly homeless West Sussex firefighter praised for returning to rough sleeping for The Great Tommy Sleep Out Challenge

A West Sussex firefighter who was made homelessness a few years ago has raised more than £1,000 for a veterans charity after taking part in The Great Tommy Sleep Out Challenge.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 10:11 am
Updated Monday, 29th March 2021, 10:14 am

Steve Foster, Blue Watch crew manager at Worthing Fire Station, found himself living in a tent over winter a few years ago but said he was at least still working at the time.

He wanted to support others who are not so lucky, so he spent three nights sleeping under the stars to raise money for Royal British Legion Industries, the leading provider of employability services to the disabled and disadvantaged in the Armed Forces community.

He was joined by fellow firefighter Matthew Harris and his 11-year-old daughter Eloise, and between them they have raised £1,055 so far to help support the estimated 6,000 veterans who are currently homeless in the UK.

Worthing Blue Watch crew manager Steve Foster and fellow firefighter Matthew Harris

Steve said: “Very few people will know this but around seven years ago, I became homeless and found myself living in a tent in a nature reserve for a few months over the winter period.

“I managed to hide the fact I was homeless from my family and my employer but I was lucky enough to still be employed by the fire service and have a fire station I could use to shower and have some sort of normality in my life. Others aren’t so lucky.”

He said that was why he and Matt braved the cold, ‘to help get veterans off the streets and into safe, warm housing and support those with disabilities’.

They had no provisions and no money for the duration of the challenge. The trio said it was extremely cold, with temperatures dropping to two degrees Celsius, and by the end, they were all very tired, but they were happy with what they had achieved and thanked everyone ‘who made this happen’.

Having had approval from Sussex Police, they slept rough for three nights, starting on Wednesday, March 24, at locations on the outskirts of Worthing, Chichester and Burgess Hill.

Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton said: “Returning to sleep out on the streets, even for a few nights, is not a decision anyone who has experienced homelessness would make lightly, and so I understand what a huge step this must have been for Steve to take.

“But I would like to commend him for taking his own experience of homelessness and using it for a force for good.”

To support Steve, find Eloise, Steve & Matt’s fundraiser on Facebook and for more information on The Great Tommy Sleep Out Challenge click here.