A once high-flying television presenter is sleeping rough on the streets because of spiralling debts caused by credit card borrowing.

Ed Mitchell has gone from earning £100,000 a year as a newsreader to roughing it on a bench on Hove seafront after his debts ran out of control.

Trouble began for the father of two when he was made redundant from his job as a news presenter for the US network CNBC in 2000.

Faced with debts of £50,000, he signed up for more credit cards to keep up with the repayments but slipped into a spiral of debt, unable to recover.

He said: "I was trying to pay Peter by borrowing from Paul.

"I had a family and tried to keep them going. I had 25 credit cards and used one to pay the other. I wasn't buying anything or having exotic holidays.

"But when things get critical the credit cards take on a life of their own. It doesn't matter how much you pay them, you never actually catch up."

Mr Mitchell began his career as a broadcast journalist in 1974 working for Reuters before doing stints at the BBC, Sky News and reading the 10 o'clock ITN news.

He struggled to find work after he was made redundant and what he earned from freelance writing jobs was absorbed by his credit card debts.

The 54-year-old cut costs by selling the family's £500,000 property in Braemore Road, Hove, yards from where he is now sleeping rough, and moved to Portslade Old Village to free up equity to meet credit card payments.

But pressure from debts created tension in his marriage and Mr Mitchell and his wife divorced in 2005. His debts spiralled to a massive £250,000 before he was declared bankrupt two weeks ago.

He described living in debt: "It was an absolute nightmare. I would almost wake up screaming thinking about how am I going to deal with this. It never left my mind. I certainly didn't sleep properly.

"It's like that act on stage where they're spinning plates. I was trying to keep everything going then there came a point when I realised actually I couldn't. It was an enormous relief."

Mr Mitchell, who has a degree in psychology from Durham University and went to Worthing High School, was more accustomed to staying in five star hotels than sleeping rough.

Nine months ago he found he had nowhere to go. He slept on sofas at friends' homes but did not wish to impose so turned to the streets.

He said: "I was very nervous about sleeping on the street. At first I slept in various parks hidden away. I thought someone would come along and beat me up. It was horrendous.

"Anyone sleeping rough is vulnerable. We might be seen by packs of feral youths as easy game. What they don't realise is what you were before you became homeless."

The smartly dressed and clean-shaven former journalist now sleeps on benches behind the Babylon Lounge which he jokingly calls the Hotel Babylon.

He spends his days looking for jobs but has not been successful so far and fears that potential employers are intimidated by his CV.

He said: "Where does a male tv presenter go? I've applied for all manner of jobs. I've applied to sweep the streets. They turned me down.

"I haven't stopped applying for jobs. I'm perfectly happy to empty bins or sweep streets."

Mr Mitchell's experience is not unique. In October the total consumer credit lending to individuals was £222 billion and Britain's personal debt is increasing by £1 million every 4 minutes.

UK Credit reference agency Experian showed Sussex seaside towns have the highest levels of debt in the country.

Hastings and Eastbourne are among the country's ten worse towns for bankruptcy with Eastbourne recording the equivalent of 1,205 people dealing with bankruptcy.

Crawley has the highest number of residents seeking Individual Voluntary Arrangements - legally binding agreements ensuring borrowers and lenders agree to a percentage of a debt being paid back over a set time period.

Mr Mitchell warned that his case was just the tip of the iceberg.

He said: "There's still the view that homeless people are dosser tramps. That's not the way it is any more. While credit cards and banks are pushing the idea of borrowing money the 21st Century tramp is now white collar and there's going to be a whole load more that will struggle with their debts.

"I'm speaking for the tens of thousands of people that are going to go through what I've been through.

"You may think how does a high-flying presenter find himself on a park bench? But it's not far away from anyone."

Mr Mitchell sleeps on average three hours a night and relies on the kindness of city homeless charities such as Off The Fence and First Base for food and bedding.

Despite losing so much he is incredibly optimistic. He views his experience as a fresh break from his debt-ridden past and is writing a book about it.

He said: "I don't think I've ever been happier. I'm not being beaten down by this. It's such a challenge. In a way I like the idea that I no longer own anything at all. All I own is in one rucksack.

"The pressure from my debts was horrendous. I'm now free of everything and since the crisis is over the whole world has opened up. There's a lot to be said about being in the position I'm in.

"I don't own a car or house or have debts or a mortgage. I can do anything. I have no regrets, no complaints and cast no blame.

"I look at it as if it's a blessing. I'm seeing a different aspect of life where I have to be so much more self reliant and pare things down to the very core of what living is which is just waking up and being alive in the morning."

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper said debt in Brighton and Hove was becoming worse.

He said: "I hope Mr Mitchell is able to get himself back on his feet soon.

"It is not unusual for people to get into debt and that is something the Citizens Advice Bureau is very concerned about.

"We are trying to get the Financial Services Authority to look at ways in which it might not be quite so easy to get into that situation.

"Building up multiple debt is possible because there are so many people willing to lend. We need stricter regulation."

A spokesman for independent debt advisory body Debts UK said that credit card debts built up over the Christmas period can be the tipping point for many people.

He said: "Over a number of years we have seen person debts increasing dramatically. I think it is because we live in a different society where money is readily available.

"December is often our quietest time because a lot of people share the approach they want to get Christmas out of the way and then make a new start in the New Year.

"They sweep their problems under the carpet. But in January and February we get a lot more enquiries from people asking for advice.

"For many people it's something that's escalated over a number of years. The Christmas spend is just the straw that breaks the camel's back."

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