Durham University students egged whilst helping homeless

TWO students were egged and saw homeless people abused by drunken revellers as they handed hot water bottles to rough sleepers.

Durham University students Tamzin Williams and Sarah Garner were appalled by the behaviour they witnessed, whilst volunteering with the Heat for the Homeless scheme in Durham City.

Third year sociology student Miss Williams said: “It was disgusting, really sad.”

After speaking to one homeless man, near the Gala Theatre, they went to see his brother, also sleeping rough, in the market place and saw for themselves the abuse homeless people can face on the streets.

They then walked along Silver Street to see if people were sheltering under the city’s bridges when eggs were thrown from above, covering 20-year-old Miss Garner’s jacket in raw egg.

The Northern Echo:

Miss Williams, 21, said: “It happened on Halloween evening which fell just before lockdown, we went out then because we know when people are a bit drunk some will harass rough sleepers and it was a particularly cold night.

“A couple of drunk men, in their 20s or early 30s, were staggering around, pointing at the rough sleepers, making jokes and laughing.

“Then as we headed to the viaduct we heard girls screaming and saw eggs on the ground, we were quite horrified when we realised what was happening.

“We weren’t with homeless people at that point, I don’t think we were targeted because of what we were doing. It is a part of the city that is populated with students so, although we didn’t see who did it, I think they were students throwing eggs at anyone that walked because they thought it was funny.

“You would think at 20/21 they would have grown out of that sort of behaviour. These are privileged people wasting food and given no thought to how it makes people feel.

“What we saw that night was probably low-level abuse, but me and my housemate felt uncomfortable and unsafe so can only imagine how homeless people feel if they face that when they are alone and vulnerable.”

The Northern Echo:

A furious Miss Williams subsequently vented her frustration on social media and more than 600 people, mostly fellow students, shared her disgust.

She hopes her story will encourage people to be more understanding of homelessness and support initiatives such as Heat for the Homeless or County Durham homelessness charity DASH (Durham Action for Single Housing), for which she also volunteers.

She said: “The homeless people asked us for nothing, they just wanted leaving alone and not to be disrespected.

“One just wanted to share his story, for people to listen and acknowledge him, he said people usually avoid eye-contact let alone speaking to him which I think is really dehumanising.”

The Northern Echo | Durham