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I TALK Professor Green: Hidden and Homeless

Fresh from the success of his excellent documentary Suicide and Me, Professor Green (Stephen Manderson) returns to BBC Three with a new insightful and thought-provoking documentary, Hidden and Homeless.

The latest estimates show that the number of young people in the UK who experience homelessness every year is over three times the official figures. Over 80,000 young people experience homelessness every year in the UK according to homelessness statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

As with his previous documentary, Hidden and Homeless reveals some incredible stats which really make you sit up and think, such as; half of all homeless people take to the streets under the age of 21, leading to crime, prostitution or drugs, over a third of young homeless people leave home before their 15th birthday and a young rough sleeper is over thirty times more likely to take their own life than average.

The most shocking stat of all was that there are 300,000 hidden homeless people living in hostels around the country. Those living in hostels, squats, derelict buildings, B&B's or even those sofa-surfing with mates are all classed as homeless. Out of the 300,000 hidden homeless, 38,500 are living in hostels and 1 in 5 16-25 year-olds sofa surfs in the UK.

At the beginning of the documentary, Stephen says he wants to understand what life is like for young people who have nowhere to live, setting out to discover the modern face of homelessness in the UK and aims to change our perceptions of who the young homeless are while exploring the harsh reality of their lives.

Hidden and Homeless sees Stephen investigate this pressing issue, which is affecting young people in greater numbers. He begins his journey in Manchester, which has seen the biggest rise in homelessness for those under 25 and where rough-sleeping has escalated in recent years.

He spends the night with 21 year-old Luke, who has been living on the streets on-and-off for the past five years, and ten days ago was released from prison after handling stolen goods. One of the biggest things Stephen learns from his time with Luke is the increasing use of legal high Spice amongst the homeless. It is estimated that 80-90% of the city's homeless are addicted to this type of synthetic cannabis which can be bought in local shops for as little as £5 a bag.

Watching Luke smoke Spice was a real eye-opener for Stephen, who admits to smoking a lot of weed in his life, but describes watching Luke "out of his nut” more akin to to watching someone "slip out on heroin" and not the affect he knows weed to have.

Throughout the documentary, Stephen isn't afraid to say what he really thinks, and he comes across as someone who is genuinely there to listen and learn. That’s what I love about Stephen as a documentary maker, it’s his ability to connect with the viewers at home and the people he meets, without coming across as condescending.

He's not afraid of calling Luke an idiot when he needs to and at one point tells him that people will be "throwing things at the television, saying why don't you just fucking go home!” Yet at the same time, he is able to sympathise with the hidden homeless admitting that he too would use drugs as he'd find anything he could to block out what was going on around him.

He also visits a women’s hostel in London, run by a Christian charity, which is where he meets 26 year-old Sakina, who has been in hostel care for two-and-a-half years, unable to look after her 4 year-old daughter.

When her family got evicted, she found herself riding the night buses before falling into the wrong crowd which she tells Stephen, saw her witness “a lot of rape taking place” and admits that she has thought of suicide.

The next part of Stephen’s journey takes place in Hackney, the area he grew up in. It’s here where Stephen admits that if it wasn’t for his Nan, he doesn’t know what would have happened to him.

He meets 25 year-old Jerome who despite working a full-time job at the Bookies, is still homeless after a family breakdown at the age of 14 saw him taken into care.

When Jerome left care at 16 he was been unable to find a stable place to live, and continues to struggle, pulling in favours and sleeping on different sofas. He says “There’s a difference between having a roof and having a home. Don’t give homelessness a face” which fundamentally is one of the big things to take away from this documentary, it’s this idea that you might walk past someone on the street, or get served by someone in a shop, and not know that they were homeless.

Stephen hits the nail on the head when he refers to Jerome as “the perfect picture of a lot of the hidden homeless. You would never pick him from a crowd as being homeless. He’s basically everything people would assume homelessness isn’t."

Once again, Stephen has managed to open my eyes to an issue I barely knew existed. I’m ashamed to admit that I used to think the term ‘homelessness' referred to the people you see on the street, in subways or outside tube stations. I never realised that the problem is much wider than that, and that this idea of the hidden homelessness is a big issue which needs to be addressed and until it's included in Government statistics I’m doubtful that it will.

Something needs to be done to ensure that there are less homeless people in the UK, not more. With the cost of living so high in the UK, it’s little wonder that there are so many people, especially those under the age of 25, who are homeless.

I sincerely hope that just because BBC Three is moving online that Stephen will stop being asked to front documentaries such as Suicide and Me or Hidden and Homeless for the channel. In a very short space of time Stephen has become a voice for a generation. He’s someone that people are willing to listen to and can relate to.

Already, the signs are positive as Professor Green will be back later in the year with a documentary about dangerous dogs, which will premiere online as part of the new BBC Three, and at a later date will be repeated on either BBC One or BBC Two.

Professor Green: Hidden and Homeless airs Tuesday 9th February at 9pm on BBC Three


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