SALFORD University Student, Matthew Torbitt has decided to spend three nights sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester this week, in a bid to raise money for Narrowgate Homeless Charity in Salford and awareness of homelessness in the UK.
Interestingly, this is not just some petty push for publicity, Matthew was homeless himself just a few years ago, so it’s a matter very close to his heart. Earlier this week, he undertook two days of silence to signify the feeling of neglect felt by those who are homeless. Matthew is known for his out spoken personality, admitting to struggling with the silence: “Your mental health goes. I honestly felt like I wasn’t partaking in society.”
The 24-year-old explained the reasons behind his campaign: “I spent a short period of time on the street and was a member of the hidden homeless community, I did a lot of sofa surfing”, through this he discovered that there’s “nowhere to go for support.” Most importantly he wants people to remember that “It’s not just a Christmas problem, it’s a yearlong problem.”
Not stopping there, he also painted his beard with glitter! In addition to being a clever publicity stunt, causing a stir via social media; who doesn’t love a glitter beard?! It also has a deeper meaning, it symbolises the shame homeless people feel when they walk the streets and everyone stares. Although surely most of them would be quite happy to swap their life on the streets for a glitter beard, its underlying meaning really hits home.
When asked how you cope he replied: “you don’t.” When explained by someone so young, the harsh reality of living on the streets becomes clear; in just over two decades, Matthew has experienced deprivation to an extent that the majority of people never will.
He’s grateful for the changes in his life, having once had ‘homelessness’ as his reality: “I’m fortunate I still have a reality to go back to, whereas the reality for other people is they don’t know when that’s going to end.” Adding that he thinks “getting into trouble” was what helped him turn his life around, “if I hadn’t gotten into trouble I’d still be stuck in a rut.” Following his turbulent trouble causing streak, he got into politics, running as MP for Cheadle in 2015.
“I’m not taking privileges because you don’t get privileges on the streets.” Torbitt will not take any luxuries with him as he ventures onto Manchester’s streets tonight and will not accept any donations from passers-by. The main issue with the task ahead is that he forgot to book the days, in between sleeping rough, off work, which he jokes will be “tougher than the actual sleeping out.”
As a homeless person, the best gift you could receive is not food or money, but somebodies time: “a lot of people are afraid to approach homeless people” but “your time” is the best gift you can give.
The best act of kindness Matthew has received is people’s time and engagement: “purely people wanting to help makes you realise that the world is outweighed by good people, rather than bad.”
By Jess Jepson