'It's safer than the street': Homeless people defend man sleeping on ledge 20ft above Thames

Sean Morrison
Homeless people have defended a man's decision to sleep dangerously close to the edge of Charing Cross Bridge: Rex Features

London's homeless people have defended a man’s decision to sleep perilously close to a 20ft drop into River Thames, saying it's the safest place to be.

They claim rough sleepers are resorting to sleeping in such precarious places to avoid getting beaten up or urinated on.

One said he woke up to find his friend had been bludgeoned to death, while others say they are regularly attacked on London's streets.

The harrowing claims come after shocking images on Wednesday emerged of a homeless man huddled up against a wall of Charing Cross Bridge.

Just yards from a dangerous drop into the river, the man appears to risk death if he rolls over in his sleep.

This is the ledge underneath Charing Cross Bridge that has been used as a spot for a homeless man

Speaking to the Standard, homeless people in the surrounding area shared harrowing stories of what may have led to the man choosing to rest in such a spot.

Derek Sharkey, 45, who regularly sleeps near Waterloo Bridge, said he knows the man and he would be safer there than in doorways on the capital's streets.

He said: “It’s out of the way and no one is going to get to him there. It is dangerous on the ledge, but he’s probably there because he’s scared to be elsewhere. I would say it’s safer than sleeping on a street corner.

“I’ve been hit with baseball bats and hammers. It’s not unusual to be attacked while you’re sleeping on the streets – especially around here.”

Darren James, pictured, claims his friend was beaten to death while sleeping on London's streets

The images show the astonishing lengths some people go to in search of a place to sleep without being troubled in London.

Darren James, 44, sleeps rough in the area and said he regularly sees the man sitting on the ledge.

He said he could understand why he would choose to risk his life by sleeping so close to the 20ft drop.

“A friend of mine was hit over the head with a brick, and it smashed his skull to pieces,” Mr James said.

"We were sleeping in a doorway near Victoria. I woke up the next morning and there was claret all in my sleeping bag."

The man was pictured in broad daylight sleeping on a ledge under the bridge near Embankment station (Rex Features)

He said: "I called an ambulance, but when they arrived they told me he was gone.

"These things happen and that's why, or at least one reason why, we are forced to sleep in such strange places."

Another woman, who did not want to be named, said she regularly heard of street sleepers being urinated on after dark in the Waterloo area.

She said: “I’ve been lucky, and touch wood nothing will happen to me, but I have heard a lot of things about what happens to people.

“A mate of mine was sleeping near Waterloo station a couple of years ago. A geezer, while my mate was sleeping, just came up to him and p****d on him.

“I can imagine the guy sleeps there, however dangerous it seems to you, to get away from all that sort of stuff. We have to look out for ourselves, because no one else does.”

Homeless people in the area have defended the man's decision to sleep on the ledge (Rex Features)

Rough sleepers are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse, according to research by Crisis.

They say more than one in three homeless people have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence while homeless.

The charity’s chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “For this man, and for thousands of others across the country, the everyday realities of homelessness are devastating.

"Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health. This is no way for anyone to live.”