Dr Andrew Rochford is nervously anticipating watching his 10-day stint on the streets play out on television.
“It broke me, it really did and I’m intrigued how that comes across on television,” he told Hibernation.
“It had a very deep impact on me and it took time to adjust and smooth back into my life. I just sat for a very long time at the bottom of a shower.
“There’s a level of guilt that comes with it. I had a hard time managing it, even though they prepare you for it.”
The third season of Filthy Rich & Homeless, the Blackfella Films production for SBS, was filmed before the pandemic.
The homeless crisis in Australia – 116,000 people at last census – has spurred the show’s makers to expand the social experiment to include central and western Sydney as well as regional towns.
Rochford joins four other high-profile Australians sleeping rough – Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood, restaurateur Pauline Nguyen, comedian Ciaran Lyons and actor Ellie Gonsalves.
Rochford decided to go into the experiment blind, not watching either of its two previous seasons.
And he was embarrassed to admit he did not know much about homelessness – and that, along with a desire to experience different things and be challenged, saw him say ‘yes’ to the opportunity.
And while the emergency doctor knew it would be hard being disconnected from his family, mixed in with the uncertainty of not knowing where his next meal and shelter would come from, he did not realise how emotionally draining it would be to hear the stories.
“I think what was the toughest for me was when somebody who has very little is open and honest and vulnerable with you and you take the time to listen to them,” Rochford said.
“I just felt an overwhelming sadness that these people were in this situation and that was the stuff I didn’t expect.”
He paused when Hibernation asked if he could truly say he enjoyed the experience, before answering “yes’’.
“In the middle of it, you’re going ‘this is horrible and I’m not enjoying this’, but understanding I was feeling like that meant I was experiencing it the way I was meant to be,” he said.
“If it felt too easy, then it felt like I wasn’t doing it justice.”
After 15 years on our screens, it is a surprise he was not recognised.
“I deliberately tried to minimise the chance of that happening – I had a beanie on and wore my glasses,” Rochford said.
“But what did happen, not so much being recognised as someone understanding I wasn’t necessarily in the same situation.
“I was in Wollongong with a man and we were sitting and chatting and he said ‘one of the others we were with said you couldn’t be homeless because your teeth are too clean’.”
Filthy Rich and Homeless, tonight, Wednesday, Thursday, 8.30pm, SBS and On Demand