THE reality of rough sleeping in Glasgow has been laid bare in a new documentary.

Ex-soldier and adventurer Ed Stafford spent 60 winter days and nights on the streets, with no money, food or shelter, to get a first-hand view of Britain’s growing homeless crisis.

In the final episode of the three-part Channel 4 series, due to air tonight, Ed travels to Glasgow, after taking a nosedive into the underworld of London and Manchester.

No stranger to hostile situations, the adventurer admits that he was nervous and intimidated to embark on the challenge.

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But after arriving during the coldest part of winter, what he found waiting for him on the streets of Glasgow took him by surprise.

“It was really positive”, he explains.

“There was a bed first policy and so many positive things going on, including the joined-up thinking and how all the organisations talk to each other.

“There was even an organisation that was set up to allow the different, fragmented organisations set up for homeless people to communicate with each other.

“I turned up at a night shelter with one guy and it turned out the housing authority had already contacted the night shelter to let them know that he had got accommodation.

“Then a taxi was sent to the night shelter and he went straight to the accommodation. It was a breath of fresh air.

“There was more examples of people with their cases being solved, due to the progressive policies up in Scotland.

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“I think it will be a bit of a light at the end of quite a dark tunnel in terms of the first two episodes.

“There was a lot that English local authorities and charities could learn from in the way things are being done.”

In the first episode filmed in Manchester, the adventurer is greeted by Spice addicts doubled over in the street like zombies and police determined to keep beggars out of sight.

He films himself eating out of bins, washing in toilet bowls and contends with constipation, in a bid to expose the harsh realities faced by the country’s homeless.

Camera crews tailing behind capture terrifying moments of violence and drug taking.

Aside from a few unsavoury characters, along the way, Ed meets a number of interesting companions, each with their own harrowing story – mostly of addiction and benefit sanctions.

In Glasgow, he meets a man going by the name of Knoxy, who finds himself homeless after a life in and out of jail.

“He had a mixture of red wine and Tennent’s Super out of a bottle. I spent quite a bit of time with him. I think he was from Possilpark”, Ed explains.

“It was nice seeing him getting into accommodation.

"I understand there’s a cycle with people going into accommodation and coming out of it, with temptations of going into crime - there’s complicated issues.

"There was two or three guys that I made good friends with. Two of them went into accommodation and it does seem to be working.

“In a city of Glasgow’s size, when I was there, there was only about 30-odd rough sleeping, which is a drop in the ocean compared to London and Manchester.”

Rather than providing a voyeuristic look at rough sleeping, the former British Army captain makes several interesting observations that provide a real insight for the viewer.

As the issue of ‘fake homeless’ continues to feature on the news, the documentary looks at the stories behind those who continue to beg after being given accommodation.

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Some featured claim that they can make up to £200 a night and get access to endless amounts of food – something they would be without if they were hauled up in a flat unable to afford everyday essentials.

Ed explains: “I was quite intimidated coming to Glasgow. Whenever I mentioned the three cities I would be visiting, people took a sharp inhale when I mentioned Glasgow.

“I didn’t ring true on the ground at all. Everyone on the ground was really lovely.

“I’m used to people in cities being quite emotionally distant with each other. That wasn’t the case in Glasgow for the homeless situation.

“Even for what the tabloid newspaper would call ‘fake homeless’. There was so much compassion for those guys too. There was a huge amount of people who were begging with sleeping bags that were then going back to accommodation.

“There was quite a common sense attitude that this was far from ideal, but it’s great that these guys aren’t rough sleeping. The accommodation is as such that they feel that they have to beg.

“There was huge compassion for the current state of affairs.”

Ed himself questions whether the Good Samaritans are making it too easy for people to be homeless.

Getting access to food isn’t a problem. Supplies appear almost on a conveyor belt from members of the public and volunteer groups, with the only complaint being that there’s not enough vegetables. The constant stream of sandwiches, coffees and curry ends in painful trips to public toilets.

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By the end of the first episode, Ed acknowledges that the initial discomfort has dulled and he begins to enjoy the freedom from responsibility that homeless life entails.

He adds: “It opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know anything about. It’s important to understand all parts of society.

“In London, the homeless community all speak to each other and watch each others back.

“They are undeniably a connected community within a pretty cold urban area. That was heartwarming.

“I hadn’t realised how much addiction and mental health problems were intertwined with rough sleepers.

“I thought it was purely a housing issue, that is part of it – a lack of social housing – but it appears to me that most people who are rough sleepers have a problem with addiction or mental health problems.

“It’s as much a social issue as it is a housing issue.”

With achievements, including the Guinness World Record for being the first human ever to walk the length of the Amazon River, spending close to two months in the underworld of Britain’s cities could have been seen as a bit of an easy gig. There’s no doubt that it’s been done before.

But Ed has managed to bring a fresh pair of eyes to the ever-evolving issue of homelessness and it’s good to know that Glasgow is going somewhere in the right direction towards ending it.

60 Days on the Streets will air on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.