1. ITV Report

As Lucy Meacock sleeps rough in Chester, we ask for your stories

Lucy Meacock and a team of volunteers slept rough in Chester to highlight the problem of homelessness Photo: Lucy Meacock

Granada Reports' Lucy Meacock slept rough on the streets of Chester last night to highlight the plight of homeless people.

Only last week it emerged that nearly 500 homeless people had died in the UK in the last 12 months.

It's a growing problem right across the North West - so wherever you are in the region we're really keen to know what you think - and we'd like you to share your experiences with us.

Here, Lucy tells us about her experience.

Never make assumptions about the person sleeping in that doorway. It could be you. It could be me. Last night it was me.

One man told me he'd lost his flat when they fell behind with rent. He pointed at two small bags and said that was now all he had in the world. All one contained was a pillow.

An ex forces who's served with the Cheshire Regiment said he had nowhere to go after his relationship broke down. He's hoping to start a job this week. He wants nothing more than to get himself off the streets and never come back.

There was a woman who'd ended up on the streets when she discovered her husband was cheating on her. She been sleeping rough for years.

Some talked of how the homeless look out for each other on the streets but there was another ex-soldier who said he was a loner and didn't trust anyone anymore.

They talked of the terrible abuse they get and how much difference one act of kindness can make to their day.

One young man came to talk to me about his life when he was sleeping rough. He said he'd deliberately committed crimes to get off the streets and into prison where he knew he'd get help for his alcoholism. He's now off the drink, has somewhere to live and has a job. In a touching moment he gave me hand-warmers saying I would need them for the cold night ahead. It was such a thoughtful gesture from someone who knew only too well how cold it can be out there.

Aside from addictions there are the other serious health issues. Several had been in hospital with pneumonia only to be sent straight back onto the streets. One had also been trying to deal with a seriously ulcerated leg. He's now in a hostel - and seeing a GP to get that wound dressed every two days. There was no way he could keep that clean on the streets.

As for us. Well as expected it was very very cold. One of the coldest nights of the year so far. My feet were like ice and that kept me awake for at least two hours. A sleeping bag is not as warm as you think. The night air was really damp too. The ground is harder than you think. There's no bathroom. No kettle. No comfort. I wore every item of clothing I had with me - all I could carry - and I was still frozen.

But I don't have to do it again tonight and tomorrow night - and on nights that are colder as we head into winter. It's really tough out there.

I met a number of people yesterday who had got themselves off the streets with help from ShareShop Chester. There were a number of success stories - people who said they'd just needed one break to get themselves sorted out. Turning your life around when you don't have anywhere to call home is so difficult. You need help to do it. So well done to Share and all the people who volunteer and donate to them. Thank you.

See more on this on Granada Reports next week.

And a special thanks to Adam Dandy Debra Webb Kingdom Thenga Jamie Christon for all of your hard work to make this happen - and for keeping morale high at all times. You're a top team. Let's do it all over again next year?

– Lucy Meacock