He’s put himself through agony running marathons across the Tay Road Bridge and even on an oil rig.
But for 34-year-old Joe Murphy, nothing was tougher than the experience of being an undercover beggar in Dundee for a day.
The father-of-one said he had a new-found respect for beggars after sharing the streets with them.
Joe, who works offshore in the North Sea, said: “I’ve done lots of charity work and marathons, but sitting on the street was the hardest thing I’ve done. I couldn’t do that again.
“The disdain you are met with is absolutely unbelievable. Parents were pulling their children away from me in disgust.
“The physical side of it was agony as well. I came away with an incredibly sore back just from sitting there for a few hours.
“When I finished, there was a huge sense of relief. I’m sure the regular beggars are desensitised from it all, but it still can’t be easy.
“One thing for sure is that I have a deeper respect for these people than I already had. They are so strong and resilient.”
Joe came up with the idea of experiencing life as a beggar after he began handing out food parcels to the homeless and witnessed their difficulties.
Another part of his challenge was to find out how City Centre Ambassadors people employed by Dundee City Council to “meet and greet visitors, and help liaise with City Centre businesses” treated beggars.
Dressed in jeans, trainers, a jacket and a hoody, Joe took a cup to pretend he was begging and a video camera to film his experiences.
It took just 27 minutes before an ambassador approached Joe and asked him to move.
Joe, who has a three-month-old son, Joe junior, with girlfriend Zanna, said: “The first thing he said was: ‘You’re new,’ which I thought was a very unusual way to approach someone on the street.
“Just a second later he told me to ‘stand up’, just like a teacher would to a child in a classroom.
“I said: ‘No, I’m happy where I’m sitting’. I thought his mannerisms were just totally out of order.
“He moved somebody else on and then he noticed my camera.
“He seemed to get quite annoyed and he soon called the police.
“I didn’t see him again, but about an hour later a police officer turned up.
“However, he knew me already and I had no problems at all, but by thattime everyone else had been moved on.
“I don’t know why I was so special.
“The other six or seven beggars were forced to leave, yet therewas me still sitting there and I was the only one with a camera.”
Joe says he hoped his footage would help change attitudes to beggars and encourage the public and authorities to help them rather than hinder them.
He said: “Most people dismiss beggars by saying ‘they’re all junkies’, but that’s nonsense.
“They just want some compassion and sometimes just a chat with someone.
“I think the majority of them would love to get a job, but when there’s 20 people going for one job 19 of whom are considered ‘normal people’ what chance does a homeless person have of securing that opportunity?”‘Ambassadors there to help’Will Dawson, convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee, said City Centre Ambassadors were there to help beggars in Dundee and had a “long track record of assisting” them.
He said: “We are aware there are very specific reasons why some individuals undertake begging and are keen to give them every help we can to improve their own situations.
“The council and its partners work together to support people in need and offer them the appropriate intervention for their circumstances. This would include advice to anyone who is homeless about how to access city council services.
“Our ambassadors are out on the streets every day monitoring begging and where possible building positive relationships with the people who are doing it.”