Sleeping rough on the road in aid of homelessness charity
FUNDRAISING duo Francis Mantle and Craig Dolan have spent much of the last month sleeping rough as they trekked 320 miles from Gloucester to Paris.
But, says Francis, they knew their nights in the open would come to an end when they reached their destination – unlike the many homeless people that they have raised funds to help.
Francis, 57, and Craig, 31, were walking to raise funds for charity Emmaus which offers homeless people a home and work; renovating and reselling furniture.
Francis and Craig both live at Emmaus' community in Gloucester. Francis spent 16 years without a home, Craig, a former Big Issue seller was homeless for nine years. Francis now works in Emmaus Stroud shop and Craig helps collect furniture.
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"I spent 16 years never showing up on the radar. I slept outside, in the woods. People just didn't want to know," said Francis.
The pair decided to walk to the Paris Salon Sale, a giant jumble sale bringing together Emmaus' international communities.
Francis set out from Gloucester on June 1 with fellow walker Peter Shaw, but sadly Peter had to drop out after suffering a calf injury.
"He put in a sterling effort," said Francis. With a few hours' notice, Craig packed a bag and took his place, joining Francis at Oxford.
The pair were offered accommodation at Emmaus communities en route, at Oxford, Greenwich, Brighton and Rouen and Dennemont in France. But in between they slept rough, with only their basher – a tarpaulin strung between trees – for shelter.
"We were homeless for the period we were walking to highlight the fact that there are so many homeless people who just wander around and are unnoticed," said Francis.
The pair covered 25 miles a day, sleeping in woods outside towns.
Craig remembers one night in France when they couldn't find anywhere to string the basher and bedded down next to a lane.
"At 3am the rain started hammering down. I was just sitting there in a puddle," said Craig.
"The walk was hard but we knew there was going to be an end to it. But there are people out there trudging around continually."
They were elated to reach Paris on June 22 and have raised more than £2,000 for Emmaus.