In the freezing cold of the night, a lone man sat on the icy sidewalk of Nottingham city center with no idea what the next day would bring.
For Bartosz Motyszynski, it was just one night among many spent in solitude in the streets.
He said he left Poland for the UK for a better life, but then found himself homeless after being “kicked” from his home on several occasions.
The 41-year-old, who says he remembers very well the months he spent sleeping on the streets of Nottingham, added: “Physically it’s very difficult.
“Your body hurts, you feel the cold at night, you smell the rain, you feel the wind.
“But nothing compares to emotional pain,” the man said, recalling his past.
“No one was talking to me – it was like I wasn’t human – like they were above me.”
Mr Motyszynski now has a roof over his head and works in a warehouse – but says the days on the streets will be a chapter in his life he will always remember.
He added: “I had depression, I had trouble sleeping at night for a long time.
“But thanks to Framework, I got on the right track – they saved my life.
“I don’t think I would be alive now without their help.”
He has lived in the UK for over a decade now and surrounded himself with friends after being brought back to life.
“I moved into an apartment in April 2020 – I was so happy,” he said as his face lit up with joy.
“In the past, someone I thought was my friend simply kicked me out of the apartment I was sleeping in.
“And then I was alone on the streets for months – I didn’t wish that on anyone.”
Sadly, Mr Motyszynski’s is not isolated and others have also shared similar stories of what it is like to spend countless cold nights in the dark, outside.
According to a recent study by the charity Shelter for the Homeless, more than 274,000 people are currently homeless in England, including 126,000 children.
Across Nottinghamshire, the Framework homeless charity works to support people who are forced to sleep rough by providing housing, health and employment services and personal care services with diverse needs.
But the need for the vital support provided by the association continues. In May, Nottingham City Council said the number of new rough sleepers on the streets of Nottingham presented a “significant challenge”, with a total of 101 different people located by the street outreach team .
Last month, city council said large numbers of people are currently on the waiting list for housing, along with countless others, facing or at risk of becoming homeless. At the time, the council’s housing support service had an open caseload of over 1,500 households, with around 130 families reporting homelessness each week.
“You want to forget the situation you are in”
Wayne Prescott, who has just moved into an apartment, described the street as a “cold place, where there are no rules.”
The 30-year-old said: “In the streets you are mistreated, you are badly beaten if you are not careful.
“And that’s why you can’t really fall asleep at night – it’s dangerous.”
He said sleepers on the street urinate on it, scream at it and are constantly abused.
“It’s a cold place – there are no rules there,” he added.
Mr Prescott said he had spent time behind bars – and found himself on the streets with no other opportunity and in a difficult position to make the right life choices for himself.
He added: “When I got out of prison, I didn’t really know what to do or where to go.
“And I think it’s a little wrong with the system – that it doesn’t give you a lot of chances.
“Like there’s nothing there for people like me.”
He continued and said, “I was an addict – because I wanted to forget about the situation I was in.
“You just don’t want to be self-aware, you want to forget about the situation you find yourself in.”
Mr Prescott, speaking at the Emmanuel House Support Center in Lace Market, added: “All I want now is to get my life back on track.
“I am looking for a job.”
Elsewhere in Nottingham, at the Sneinton Hermitage Hotel, another former sleeper on the street told the family he had none left.
“I couldn’t survive another winter”
Andrew Warne, who has said he is no stranger to the rough life on the streets, said: “Everything just went downhill after my divorce.
“I had my own garage – but I lost everything.
“I used to go to the pub with friends until I became an alcoholic – and ended up on the streets.”
The 56-year-old, who has slept on the streets for over 11 years, said: “I have fractures in my neck and back – my health is just not good.
“I have spent many winters outside in the cold – and I couldn’t do it anymore.
“I couldn’t get through another winter, I just know that – and I couldn’t survive on the streets now.”
He said he was now disabled and could not apply for a job due to his medical condition.
Thinking back to his ten years on the streets, he added: “I used to drink nine liters of cider, ten liters of lager and a bottle of whiskey almost every day.
“And I remember people would rather cross the street than approach me.
“People were looking at me like I wasn’t one of them.”
Mr Warne added: “The truth is, it is not difficult to become homeless.
“People don’t understand that.
“But it’s a lot harder to get out of it and change your life.
“I was an alcoholic – and now I have completely changed my life.”
If it hadn’t been for the outreach team, he said he wouldn’t be alive by now.
“I just know I couldn’t have spent another winter.
“They saved my life.
“It’s completely different in the county than in the city”
In northern Nottinghamshire, the situation is perhaps much more complicated.
Richard Stafford, the team leader of Framework’s North Nottinghamshire outreach team, says there are only seven workers who need to cover every borough and district from Rushcliffe up to the Yorkshire border at Bassetlaw .
“It’s completely different in the county than in the city,” he told Nottinghamshire Live.
“In their town, if a outreach worker is referred, they can come out of the office and go see them right away. But with us we sometimes travel from Leicestershire to Yorkshire.
“Restless sleep collapsed when Covid happened because of Everyone. We then saw a massive spike in October.”
Mr Stafford says a number of services have opened recently, including a Housing First initiative in Mansfield as well as the employment of a prison and mental health navigator.
He says he has encountered a wide range of people, with around 70 people sleeping rough at any given time, many of them hiding in remote corners of Nottinghamshire.
A special case he remembers fondly is that of a man who slept in the street with a pet parrot.
“He had to stay in the office with us until we found a place for him,” added Stafford.
Another man, he said, had built himself a shelter beside the River Trent.
Here he would live during the hottest summer months, before agreeing to stay in a hostel once temperatures drop during the winter.
Mr Stafford says those who are most difficult to help are those who have entrenched themselves in a life on the streets.
Mr Stafford’s team are currently trying to help April Paget, 34, and Steven Murphy, 31, who met at a hostel and have been together ever since.
Ms Paget was released from prison after being caught attempting to smuggle Class A drugs into HMP Doncaster on the street.
Upon her release, however, she had nowhere but streets to go.
Framework staff continue their efforts to ensure that no one is homeless, with many people taking to the streets following a lifetime of trauma, mental health issues and addiction.
“People are horrible and they don’t ask you why you are sitting there,” recalls Ms. Paget.
“We slept under Ladbrokes at Worksop. I got out of jail and spent some time in a label house, but got kicked out when they took my label off.”
Mr. Murphy, who has two children, is staying with Ms. Paget in temporary accommodation in Hucknall while a more permanent home is found for them.
He added: “You have to have a strong mind.
“The frame has helped us a lot. They were brilliant. But still being here, we’re in limbo all the time. I’m sorry for the people who don’t have anyone. We would have been lost without each other. “
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