“Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?” Bristol’s Hidden Homeless

Monday 1 June sees the first airing of “Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?” a documentary made by Bristol based production company Drummer TV. Charting the plight of several young homeless people living in the centre of the city, the programme raises many issues which are going unnoticed and unrecognised.

The programme is made by the Drummer TV team, Rachel Drummond Hay and Tamsin Summers, whose past credits include the Boarding School Bomber and a range of hard hitting documentaries.

Martin Read, who directs the piece, was himself homeless as a teenager. He uncovers the real stories behind the growing rate of homelessness in all our UK cities through a peer to peer style of reporting. Alarming estimates of the growth of young homeless should not go unrecognised as you watch this film which highlights that many young people will at some point experience homelessness – whether that be the traditional image of sleeping rough or sofa surfing at friends’ houses.

Watching this thought provoking film makes me think about the assumptions often made about homelessness; that it is something people bring on themselves; or it is the result of drink or drug abuse and therefore self-inflicted. However, ignorance is always dangerous and what this programme should do for viewers, if nothing else, is enable them to see the personalities behind the person sleeping in a doorway that you walk past on the way to work. Often, it is a set of tragic, family circumstances which a young person finds themselves in resulting in a start to adulthood without a permanent residence, future prospects or any quality of life.

As someone working in the city centre of Bristol I have seen first-hand the exponential growth of homelessness in the city in the past few years. I have spoken to and offered basic support to individuals and know that this does little to help the problem but as individuals if we can all collectively make small changes, the impact can be positive. A deep recession and widespread cuts to services and benefits is hitting the wrong people, homelessness should be a collective problem we all take responsibility for; walking on by is shameful.

The one element that the programme screams loud and clear is the camaraderie, or brotherhood (for all bar one of the people feature are young, white males) that exists – a sense of neighbourliness and support network between the characters interviewed for the film is clearly evident. In this city, like many others, where the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ appears to be widening this sense of solidarity is not always replicated within communities throughout the city as we focus on our own lives and circumstances and not those of the people we live or work next door. Whether it’s an elderly person in need of company or a young homeless person we live next door to people suffering extremes of circumstance which we all have some responsibility for.

As a piece of creative output this film tackles what for many is a taboo subject where presumptions are rife and unconscious bias is a barrier to being able to find any practical solutions. With very little state help it is the church, charities and the Princes Trust which are mentioned as sources of support for these disenfranchised, predominantly young men. Potential and a willingness to improve their situations is highlighted but until zero hours contracts, high private rents and an acknowledgment of the family issues that have led to a homeless state are dealt with properly the homeless rate will continue to rise.

Next time you’re walking past someone who is living on the street, remember this film and maybe it will make you think twice and heaven forbid, even stop and get to know someone who is not as privileged as you.
Through Purplefish we actively support initiatives in Bristol that seek to help the hidden homeless in our great city of Bristol. We donate profits and personal time to helping people without homes, if you would like to do the same or share your views please get in touch: hello@www.purplefish.agency
Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?, 9.00pm, BBC 3, Monday, 1 June