Sunday, 13 March 2016

Privilege meets poverty in the first of this worthy Two -Parter fromthe BBC

BBC Sport’s Relief seems to do a lot of great TV that goes under the Radar and the same can be said for  “Famous Rich and Homeless” a show where recognisable celebrities have to live on the streets for a week. 

Records show that only eight million Britons have enough money saved to cover a month’s Rent should a crisis hit. Support Services have had massive budget cuts. Anyone of us could be made homeless if something were to hit our ability to earn money.

Overseen by John Bird, the man who once was homeless , established The Big  Issue  magazine and now sits in the House of Lords. He thinks the experiment will show how mind Body and Spirit changes when you are homeless, how just getting through the day or planning your best place to sleep consumes you. He brings the Celebrities to a Railway arch at Waterloo where he, at age Fifteen had” lived” . There he had to deal with people trying to Urinate on him, living in cold, wet and more importantly Lonely and isolated circumstances.

The celebrities have to find places to sleep,and  beg for money to eat . They are not allowed to sleep in hotels or use their celebrity status to gain advantage. They will be dropped in some of the most dense areas for Homelessness in the city. They are given some clothes and a sleeping bag and each dropped off in a different part of London. 

John says that they  will not know who to trust because often the reason for being on the streets is to escape ill treatment or abuse, so being who you are changes and truth falls away to make room for survival.

The celebrities are

Julia Bradbury : Presenter of Country File on BBC One 

Mother  of two young children,Julia lives  in a well to do area of London. She is used to walking in the outdoors and often in the elements, but she is privileged. She is however sympathetic and believes Homelessness is something we actually can tackle as a cause.

Julia has thought this through, as she sits in the cab to drive to the rendezvous  point under a bridge at Waterloo, she tells us she has eaten a massive bowl of Pasta, drunk a hot chocolate and eaten a cooked breakfast earlier in the day. 

At 11:45 she is dropped off in Camden Town and she immediately plans to seek refuge in a hostel. She begins to ask people for money for the cost of a hostel stay, this is predominantly from groups of females. She says that this is not technically begging ( Which is illegal) as she is not sitting with her hand out. I say Whatever gets you through the night Love, however you do it you are now a beggar! One helpful woman points her in the right direction of a hostel and off she trots.

There is a major problem, Julia  has no ID  documents and she realises that her Identity had been an asset that she had not thought of.

She finally finds a spot under a pedestrian bridge to set up her bed.

At 6:25 she gets up again and again refuels with a sandwich and a bottle of water. I am impressed by her survival instinct, by keeping fed and hydrated she will have strength to face the day and avoid a slip into depressiveness. Proactivity seems to be the key here.

Nick Hancock Sports and Comedy star, is a little bit cynical that four celebrities living on the streets will do no real good, but I think that giving Homelessness a human face, just talking to the people living this life day in and day out will be  a revelation and encourage people to donate to Sports Relief.

Nick is dropped in East London in Dalston and on hitting the pavement begins to be followed by a man of dubious origin.

 He manages to  avoid a calamity and then cadging a cigarette from a passerby cogitates on his next move. A passing man looking for a Karaoke bar offered him his first piece of valuable advice..”Homeless people sleep on Cardboard, it insulates the heat”  and so begins the search for a cardboard mattress. He beds down on the pavement.

Willie Thorne ex -professional Snooker Player, he has faced financial ruin through a gambling habit that almost led to the loss of his house and the destruction of his first Marriage. He says he knows he was a whisper away from this, but His wife says he has been pampered and never really had to cope with anything himself so this will be a massive challenge.

Willie is dropped in South London in the area of Brixton. He immediately sits on a bench. He has barely moved and has managed to beg some money but hours pass. A homeless girl suggests he beds down at the church  and as they chat a bottle whizzes over his head and smashes and a drunk man starts shouting obscenities. After hours of inaction he finally beds down at the Church Steps, complaining that the Sleeping bag is made for Dwarves.

Kim Woodburn Celebrity  Cleaner  is apprehensive and Keen, but adamant in  her view that some people are homeless through a lack of gumption to seek work and might be lost causes.

Kim is dropped in Piccadilly Circus in the West End at about ten o clock at night. It is a busy and bustling area where tourists and Revellers mix liberally with the poorest and most vulnerable. She wastes no time in picking a spot under some scaffolding to sleep for the night. It is out in the open, on the main thoroughfare. She is cleverly saving energy and in a good spot for lots of foot traffic.

She makes friends with an ex soldier who  on leaving found his partner in bed with another man whilst the kids were at school. He soon fell into drink and drugs. He was finally diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar and was hospitalised for a problem with his lungs and kidneys and because he was not out of hospital to sign a new tenancy agreement, lost his home. All of his worldly belongings thrown out into the street.

Kim’s down to earth character reaps dividends. The two men she has been chatting to gives her a sleeping bag, giving her instruction that one is to sleep on and one to sleep in, but the advice is not to zip it up and one wonders whether this is to to make a quick escape should things get a bit dangerous?

 At 1:45 she is awake. The hardness of the pavement is causing her not to sleep.  She meets an Eighteen year old girl. Who after getting involved in Gangs, has lost both her Children . As they chat, Kim discovers that her mother would like her back at home and it is the girl herself who is prevaricating despite her saying she does not like living on the street, so Kim gives her the coins she was given by a passerby to call her Mother in an attempt at a reconciliation.

All the celebs get through the night and have to find places for their morning ablutions. All are achy and cold.

 Nick tries to find a reasonable meal with the £5 given to him by a Good Samaritan and meets James, a homeless guy sat in the midst of the city where all the big Financial houses are, who has been moved on from Kings Cross. James does not foresee being able to get off the street unless he suddenly got a massive cash injection. This seems like pie in the sky when most jobs are reliant on there being an abode to put on the application.

Willie walks  three miles to a day centre to get a meal ( costing £1)and he finds a convenient chair to get a couple of hours of shut -eye. He also plans to watch the Leicester Match that night to keep himself off the street for as long as possible. He meets two lads there that suggest that sleeping during the day is better as it is safer to have some acuity at night when the streets are more dangerous. 

After three hours in the pub, he walks to a church where there is an area that seems a little more sheltered but because there are other rough sleepers there with drink,  he feels unsafe to stay there too.  He starts getting belligerent with the crew when they refuse to assist him in finding another place. He returns to the church he had slept at the night before.

Nick too has returned to the alleyway he slept in the night before, but with some canny planning manages to fashion a bed out of a shopping trolley, some polystyrene and a discarded mattress as a roof. His night is broken  by the cries of a disturbed lady. 

He wishes she would find help, but stays in his trolley bed. He sees this lady as symbolic of fears he holds himself, that perhaps he has an issue with alcohol that he needs to  truly address which is a very brave thing to do for a BBC Documentary! More power to him!

As the rain pours down, Nick asks Becky and Sam for help in finding a more sheltered spot they not only take him to a place to find clean, fresh cardboard, but to a subway that is dry and means he will be undisturbed. Becky tells Nick that she and Sam met in Foster care and are homeless as the authorities will not house them together. Nick is so moved by the kindness of these two young people who have so little themselves, but give so generously of their knowledge and themselves.

Julia is having a bit of trouble asking for funds tonight and the rain is starting to come down. She goes to a day centre to shower and there meets Stephen. A young man Who is a huge Country file fan. He has spent ten out of the last twelve years in Prison, he is a binge drinker and a drug addict, currently under the thrall of legal high “Spice”, a drug he claims a lot of the homeless are addicted to. He was given a hostel room three days ago and has popped back to see the people at the day centre. 

Stephen still has to beg as getting a job is still proving hard with a prison record and a problem with drugs hanging around his neck and he receives no benefits.

Stephen is convinced by Julia  to speak to his mum who agrees to take him away for a weekend to do cold turkey off the spice.they both cry as his Mother agrees to assist.

 In return he helps to find her a good place for the night to bed down and scavenges cardboard and carpet for a groundsheet. Julia gives him the bangle with” Faith” written on it as a talisman.

Kim sees her young friend who says the phone call home has resulted in her mother putting some money into her account. Kim feels this miraculous turnaround seems just a little too good to be true but hopes the girl will get off the street.

Willie is struggling and returns to the day centre in his area and there Fifty eight year old Steps offers to take him under his wing, but Willie will not go to the place steps suggests because of the street drinkers who might be there and then storms off to a Macdonalds to decide whether he wants to continue and demands a “Break” to sleep in a real bed. John Bird is called in to talk him down, but his obstinacy wins through. He gets a night in a hotel with a proper hot shower.

I have to admit that this behaviour seems churlish on Thorne’s part. The others are keeping to the brief and are being rewarded for that, they are learning about the realities of homelessness in London(and so too in every city in the UK and abroad). 

Sport’s relief is a tremendous charity effort and the work they do for the homeless is 
Invaluable.Please consider a donation.

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