A homeless man sitting in a nook in a street in Brighton.
Social issues • 10 min read

Why tell the real stories of homelessness?

Our short film ‘Solving homelessness one person at a time’, which we produced with the pioneering charity Your Place, made the Charity Film Award Finals last month.

Trophy or not, the most valuable win was the airtime afforded to the real stories of homelessness. Stories shining a light on issues that people in our cities, towns and communities are facing through no fault of their own.

Charities like Your Place not only pick up the enormous slack in the unravelling fabric of our society; they also campaign for a radical restitching.

Not individual failings, but systemic ones. 

The exorbitant cost of living in the UK is one of the greatest disgraces of our time. Profiteering of our fundamental human needs is surely exploitation in plain sight. And a dangerous accepted norm.

It is, however, awe-inspiring to see charities like Your Place not only pick up the enormous slack in the unravelling fabric of our society, but also campaign for a radical restitching of that fabric. Let’s not forget the sector was told by the state they can’t have a voice on policy — and that they should “stick to their knitting” (as civil society minister Brooks Newmark put it back in 2014). Quite.

Why homelessness? Why now?

We made this film while working with Your Place (previously Caritas Anchor House) on its relaunch, renaming and reimagining of itself back in 2012-2022. Around this time, it was reported that in London one person became homeless every 11 minutes.

The team at Your Place continues to work hard to reduce homelessness in the worst-affected areas. It does so by offering a range of support including housing, mental health, employment as part of a uniquely joined-up, person-centred service for people with diverse needs. Hence solving homelessness one person at a time.

But it also campaigns for longer-term change. Collaborating with other advocates locally and nationally, they lobby the government on measures to stem and eventually prevent the problem.

Collective action

As more charities turn to advocacy, will we see their efforts redoubled through increased collaboration? The problems we face, socially and environmentally, are vastly interconnected. So then, we need vastly interconnected solutions. And collective action calling on all the power we can muster.

Bearing in mind that a former cabinet minister only recently asserted, while in post, that a person is homeless through their own choice, we have a long way to go. In the meantime, we must find ways to stand up to stigmatising, dehumanising misinformation that diverts attention from the real issues.

Making homelessness matter more, one story at a time

Really solving homelessness in our society, for good, starts with speaking the truth. To public perceptions, to government policy, and to how we live. This is what we were eager to capture in our work: messages of truth that could be heard beyond the supporter base.

As well as shining a light on the problems, the film presents a sustainable solution.

Through film and photography, we documented the journeys of Ag, Mary and Nur. A mental-health worker, a cake-maker, and a social housing entrepreneur. Life happened, and despite (or because of) our social safety net, they found themselves without a home when they needed it the most.

Their lived experiences lay bare the societal and personal struggles forcing thousands of people into homelessness across the UK. These are struggles that Your Place builds its support around, helping people to find their ‘place’ again.  As Ag put so eloquently: “Your Place met me at my point of need.”

Stories like these hold a mirror to what it really means to be without a home in the UK today, exploding the myth that people become homeless through their own lifestyle choices. They demonstrate the common but complex root causes as a connected picture.

What’s more, the individual circumstances of Ag, Mary and Nur point to the many cases of homelessness that are hidden from view.

As well as shining a light on the problems, the film presents a sustainable solution. For people to have a place where they can get the support they need to rebuild their self-belief and their lives.

This is what we encountered at Your Place. The culture of community and acceptance they aim to foster is almost a microcosm of the caring, responsive, fair society we’d like to be part of. One with an unwavering belief in people and their capacity for overcoming adversity. 

Yes, solving homelessness usually happens one person at a time. But preventing it will be a collective job.

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See our film shorts for Your Place