A STUDENT has trekked from Annan to Dumfries in a bid to raise awareness about homelessness and clean-up the region’s coastline.
John Dutch, 23, right, set off from his home in Annan last Friday, equipped with a tent, a change of clothes, some food and water and litter-picking tools. Travelling by the back roads, he collected 26 bags full of rubbish, before pitching his tent each night to gain a sense of what sleeping rough is like at this time of year.
Discussing the three-day journey, he said: “Throughout the day I couldn’t really stop – that’s the reality of a lot of homelessness problems, you’re fine as long as you’re moving but a lot of people think ‘these folk are drunk and not able to move around,’ but my body was drunk with the cold.
“Day by day I could feel and have an understanding of any of the situations. It is a holistic problem that needs a holistic response – of course you’d try and numb yourself from the cold.
“It took three days and I was walking an average of about 12 miles a day. The biggest thing I’d say to anyone doing a similar thing is to wrap up like a caterpillar – cocoon yourself.”
Litter picking required him to “walk on two sides of the road,” and he said: “At the peak I was filling up one bin bag every 400 metres.”
His litter picking equipment was donated by the People’s Project in Dumfries.
Asked how he found sleeping out at the coldest time of the year, John replied: “To be fair, I’ve been pretty blessed if you look at how warm this winter has been, I think I’ve been let off very very easy for the reality of what it was, but I was willing to take the harsh winter, I wanted it to be as harsh as possible.”
John, who is studying business at Dumfries and Galloway College, hopes his efforts will raise awareness and said: “Think about how homeless shelters and all these support networks will be running this year, look at it comparatively to other years; you’ve usually got help for the homeless in Glasgow, people able to go about and help. At the shelters where these people stay they really have to cram folk in and they can’t afford to give people two metre spacing – these folks don’t have the empowerment to abide by these rules.
“The best thing people can do if they’re feeling discontent is often remembering what you do have, and to remember what you do have, sometimes you’ve got to experience a bit of what it’s like without it.”
So far he has raised £525 of his £850 target for Centrepoint. Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-dutch1.