A DAD and his daughters have been left feeling “heartbroken” for the homeless after sleeping rough in freezing temperatures to raise money for charity.

Lee Clark, 42, admitted the only thing that got him through the fundraising challenge was knowing he had a warm bed to go home to – a luxury that homeless people do not have.

The avid fundraiser spent from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening on the street outside Tesco Express in Southchurch Road, alongside his daughters Poppy, 10, and Emily, 13, and friend Rob Cameron, 42.

This is part of an annual event that the group of four take on every year. However, this year it was “the coldest ever”.

Temperatures dropped as low as -3 degrees, with a warning in place for snow and ice across Southend.

The family managed to raise more than £2,000 after completing the 30-hour sleep out.

Lee said: “It was a real struggle, and I am still trying to ‘feel normal’ now two days later.

“We just couldn’t keep warm, and hitting minus three was so scary.

“My girls even said they can’t believe people manage to sleep outside for so long and they feel very sad. But hopefully we have spread some awareness.

“What kept us going is knowing we have a bed to go to, but our rough sleepers don’t, and it makes my heart break.

“I am one of the lucky ones who has a home to go to and I feel terrible for our rough sleepers because my household is one pay cheque away from homelessness, and it can really happen to anyone.”

Lee noted how people who had previously been homeless themselves approached them during their challenge to thank them for their charity work.

Mr Clark added: “One of the things they liked when homeless was when people spoke to them, as it made them not feel invisible.

“I have made a pact to make sure I stop and say hello and stop and chat to our homeless community because people thought we were homeless, and a little chat really makes you feel that little bit better.

“Sometimes it takes just a friendly smile to make a difference to anyone’s life.”

Southend’s homeless charity Harp is set to open a new winter shelter for people sleeping rough this winter.

This is to ensure that people in Southend sleeping rough don’t have to be out in the cold this winter.

It will be based on the London Road, near Chalkwell Park, and will open at 7pm every evening until 8:30am. People using the shelter will then be encouraged to visit Harp’s Bradbury Centre during the day for breakfasts, hot showers, and other services as normal.

Mr Clark added: “It is vital to get our rough sleepers indoors, especially how cold it is already.

“I am so happy to hear this. It is awful being alone on the streets, let alone in this weather.

“Hopefully, something like this will be the step they need and support they need to help them get off the street for good.”