EastEnders star Shane Richie has told how he spent 10 days sleeping rough as a struggling actor.

Richie, 54, who plays Alfie Moon in Albert Square, told the Daily Mirror the experience left him feeling that “we should never stop trying to find” a solution to help people on the streets.

He said: “What I learnt almost 40 years ago has had, and will always have, a lasting effect on me.

“I slept rough for no more than 10 days before the grim reality kicked in and sent me home with my dirty, unwashed tail firmly between my legs.

Richie was 16 when he ended up living in a squat in Plymouth after a job as a DJ fell through.

When it was raided by police, he ended up “walking the streets… alone and virtually penniless”.

Shane RichieShane Richie said he slept rough when he was just 16 (PA)

He said: “Everyone I spoke to over my very short time of living on the streets had a heartbreaking story.”

He added that many of those he encountered had left home because of sexual or physical abuse or due to drug or alcohol addiction.

Richie slept in his sleeping bag in a shop doorway in a railway station and then on a park bench.

After he was cautioned for vagrancy, the police “took pity on me” and “kindly drove me to the A38 and dropped me off”.

He added: “I stuck my thumb out and 220 miles later, I was home again.”

He went on: “The people I’ve spoken to over the years, who are living on our streets, are not looking for pity but dignity.

“So next time you pass someone curled up in a doorway in the freezing cold, just think that whoever it is under that filthy blanket is someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, mum or dad, and that in the blink of an eye, it could be me or you.”