Afghanistan veteran with medals and child
27 January 2014

Soldiers sleep rough to show support for SSAFA

Royal Engineer Paul O'Dwyer and Royal Marine Lee West slept rough on the streets of Swansea for seven nights to raise money and awareness for SSAFA.

Soldiers sleep rough to show support for SSAFA

Two serving soldiers have spent a week sleeping on the streets to raise money and awareness for military families and those facing homelessness.

Earlier this month, Royal Engineer Paul O'Dwyer and Royal Marine Lee West both from Wales, slept rough on the streets of Swansea for seven days and seven nights, in aid of military charity SSAFA and homeless charity, Shelter. Their Facebook page stated “We are going homeless for 7 nights for money, no help, just a sense of humour and initiative.”

With charity shop clothes on their backs and no winter warmers, Paul and Lee begged for food and money. When most people were just getting over their New Year celebrations, the two selfless fundraisers chose to sleep on the streets.

Paul and Lee have been friends for 15 years. Lee explains, “I couldn’t have done this with anyone else but Paul. We’ve never had an argument, we have a great laugh and we knew that sleeping rough on the streets would have a big impact on raising money and awareness for two charities that provide housing support and advice to those who need it most.”

They documented their challenge using their mobile phones, which they carried on them throughout; not only for safety, but to capture some of the misfortune that they faced and update the thousands of online followers that they had generated. Throughout their arduous week-long social experiment and fundraising mission, they turned down shelter accommodation and refused help from friends and family. They simply relied on passing members of the local community to give them what they could.

At SSAFA we know that a significant number of veterans can find themselves on the streets and there is no question that life after the Forces can be challenging. For some, a lack of experience in dealing with everyday finances or a relationship breakdown due to pressures of service life can lead to homelessness. For others, mental health problems, sometimes relating to military service such as PTSD, can also increase the risk of homelessness with sufferers facing addiction and unemployment.

For someone moving into a new home or kicking an addiction, support and funding from SSAFA is an essential part of their recovery process. From our work with Veterans Aid, right through to the support provided by our trained caseworkers in our local branches throughout the UK, we can provide advice and practical guidance on debt and housing to those facing homelessness.

For all those people on the street, many are there as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Thanks to the efforts of people like Paul and Lee, SSAFA can help to return the pride of ex-servicemen and women struggling with homelessness, to the point where they aren’t just given a roof over their heads but are given a chance to excel.

So far Paul and Lee have raised over £2,000 for SSAFA, which will be given to the local Branch in Wales to help continue the life-changing work they do with our Forces and their families.

Support Paul and Lee's Trampface challenge.

Find out about SSAFA's support for homeless veterans.