A homeless man living in a tent burns his own clothes to stay warm outside

A homeless man who only uses a tent for shelter says he had to burn some of his clothes to stay warm.

Darren Potter said he went to the grounds of Cheltenham Cathedral because he had nowhere to go after his release from prison.

The 51-year-old burned cardboard and wood to create a small fire to keep warm.

He even set fire to some of his clothes and blankets to create heat, Gloucestershire Live reports.

He said, “I was too scared to fall asleep because I know it would kill me this time.

“I’m going to beg on the streets to see if I can get enough money to stay in a hotel.”

Darren said he was fed up with the cold and said the probation service did not give him the help he needed to solve his homelessness problem.

He said he couldn’t live with his wife because he was estranged from her and had been sent to jail for breaking an order not to see her. Darren added that his mother did not want to take him in because he had not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In May 2017, Darren appealed for help when he found himself in a similar situation, setting up a tent outside Gloucestershire Live’s office at St James’ House in Cheltenham.

He then admitted that he was no angel and that alcohol and drugs had caused him problems which had seen him spend time in prison, mainly for dishonesty offenses such as theft from display.

Fast forward nearly five years and it looks like not much has changed.

Darren said he has since been homeless or in jail, admitting he also got into trouble for breaking a stay-at-home order in the Rowanfield part of Cheltenham.

When he spoke to Gloucestershire Live in the cemetery, he had an empty liquor bottle by his side.

He admitted he had been “an idiot”, but said he wanted to get the help he needed and felt more could have been done to help him.

“I really screwed up, but the system let me down a bit,” he said.

He added: “I have a drinking problem. I was in prison about five times in one year, receiving small sentences each time.

“I went out and it was a homeless case.”

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you have mental health issues. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:

Samaritans: phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], confidential

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and will not appear on your bill

PAPYRUS: Voluntary organization to help suicidal teenagers and young adults. Telephone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to further information on its website

Students Against Depression: A website for depressed, moody, or suicidal students. Click on here to visit

Bullying UK: a website for children and adults affected by bullying. Click on here

Campaign Against Living Miserable (CALM): for young men who feel unhappy. Has a website here and a hotline: 0800 58 58 58

He said Cheltenham Open Door gave him the tent he was living in.

After being told by police to leave the cemetery, he said the vicar of The Minster argued that he should be allowed to stay there as he had nowhere to live.

Darren insisted that he tidy up the place he was living in when he left.

He said there was a time recently when he thought he’d rather be in jail than live outside in the cold.

Cheltenham Probation Service referred Gloucestershire Live’s investigation to the Department of Justice.

The ministry declined to comment.

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Elizabeth J. Harless