Dispatches – Britain’s Street Kids

dispatches britains street kids

Every day hundreds of children are forced to leave home. Some run away, even more are thrown away: discarded and evicted by their parents. This crisis in Britain’s families has created an itinerant population of young people without support or a roof over their heads. The state has to provide, at an immense cost, while voluntary organisations try to plug the gaps in the face of drastic cutbacks and closures.

Directed by award-winning film-maker, Nick Read, and produced by BAFTA-winning team, True Vision (Dispatches: China’s Stolen Children, Chosen), Dispatches follows four teenagers over six months who are struggling to fend for themselves on the streets. Both at risk and a risk to society, for all of them drugs become a way of life, a means of dealing with the stresses and challenges of life away from family and home comforts. All talk candidly and eloquently about why they take flight: family breakdowns; addiction; violence; neglect and abuse. The unspoken truth behind their stories points to both inadequate parenting and severe lack of consistent and effective care once they have left home, which becomes their reality.

In Edinburgh, 16 year old Robyn is a street veteran. She left home aged 12 and soon after she was injected with heroin for the first time. Now she wrestles with her addiction and demons, so that “someone will hear my voice”.

For 16 year old Chelsey, “every day is a battle”, mainly with South London’s housing officers, to find secure accommodation. Having been kicked out of several hostels, she is running out of options.

Seventeen year old Sophie refuses to deal with the ‘system’ at all, preferring to sofa surf in Bristol’s squats in a state of drug-fuelled flux.

Haydon is 17, but barely equipped to face the world on his own. Recently evicted by his mother, he is soon desperate to leave the B&B where he is placed: “I don’t want my independence yet, I’m too young.”

Dispatches: Britain’s Street Kids explores the hidden world of runaway and evicted teenagers, giving them a voice for the first time, and celebrating their extraordinary ability to fend for themselves. – Channel 4, Dispatches

Documentary Notes

  • Hundreds of children are forced to sleep on the streets
  • An estimated 100,000 children under the age of 16 run away from their home every year (stats from the Childrens Society). A large perportion of these children are chucked out of their home and disowned
  • By law all teenagers between ages 16 and 18 who are identified as homeless are the responsibility of local councils.
  • children are drawn away from home because of excitement or possibility of adventure
  • 1 in 9 young people are physically attacked when away from home. Many are sexually assulted.
  • Homeless children who find themselves in long-term hostels have support from social workers around the clock.
  • children often run away from violent families
  • Private landlords and b&b owners take the overflow of homeless children who cannot otherwise be housed in homeless shelters.
  • Many children report that soical authorities are unsympathetic to their needs.
  • Teenage runaways are constantly in transit, searching for refuge to avoid staying on the streets.
  • To survive in a life where violence is normalised, many homeless teenagers try to deal with problems themselves rather than turning to adults for help.
  • 1 in 3 children evicted from home by their parents experienced violence at home.
  • 30% of children brought up in residential care end up running away.
  • In a recent study, the charity railway children interviewed 100 children who had ran away from home under the age of 16. They found that every single child had used either drugs or alcohol.
  • Inconsistent parenting is a common reson why children decide to leave home

No Place to Call Home – 2015 BBC Homeless Documentary

No Place to Call Home BBC Documentary 2015

What’s it like to be homeless in Britain today – when you are ten years old?

BAFTA-winning film-maker Jezza Neumann follows two families for 18 months, from before they are evicted by their private landlords, through over a year in a homeless hostel and months of sofa-surfing with friends and family. Throughout this ordeal 11-year-old Ellie and 10-year-old JJ remain cheerful and resilient, trying to see what they are going through as an adventure that they will one day look back on and laugh about, once they finally have a home they can call their own once again.

But we also see the destructive impact that living with such uncertainty has on young lives, as this film brings to life before our eyes the dry statistics about how children’s education, their physical and mental health, and their future chances in life all suffer as a result of homelessness and eviction.

Record numbers of low-income tenants are being evicted by private landlords. As a result over 80,000 children are now living in temporary housing in the UK, three quarters of them in London. This sensitive film brings home just how destructive that experience can be. – No Place to Call Home – BBC


Documentary Notes

  • Social housing stocks at an all time low
  • 80,000 children living in temporary housing. 75% of which live in London
  • Many more children, families and individuals will not be part of the statistics and will be living temporarily on friends and families floors and setees
  • Since 2000 the number of private lets has almost doubled. This has now overtaken those in social housing for the first time.
  • Children living in temporary housing lose on average 11 weeks of school a year due to house moving.
  • Numbers of families placed in another local authority have gone up 26% in the past year
  • 9 out of 10 are sent from london
  • 300000 people are believed to be sofa surfing, the so-called “hidden homeless”
  • Homeless children are 3-4 times more likely than other kids to develop mental health problems
  • A quarter of London’s homeless spend 2 or more years in temporary accommodation

Broken Lives Illustrated Homeless Documentary

Broken Lives Illustrated Homeless Documentary

Broken Lives Illustrated is the story of 12 homeless individuals living in St. Pete, Florida.
The subjects were interviewed and then turned into fine art by artist Jake Troyli jaketroyli.com

More info on their original kickstarter listing here

Documentary Notes

Hearing the stories of the homeless and expressing them through artwork.


Kevin Farley, college educated, ex-carpenter lost his job and girlfriend in Kentucky, USA.

Brian Douglas, lives in Maryland, born in Connecticut. Recovering drug addict following a biker lifestyle for many years. A bike accident now means his only form of income is disability allowance. Explains a lot of fights and robbery on the streets.

Borris Samson, St Petersberg, Florida. Spent a lot of time in children’s homes/re-formitory schools. Talks about sexual abuse, and beatings when he was a young child at said school.  The worst part of living on the street: no structure. Stuck in his past. Lived his life in and out of prison. “Existing without a purpose”.

Dave, been arrested 39 times in 2013.

Adam, absolute hero.

Hardest part about being on the streets? – Finding a safe place to sleep

Why don’t people sleep in hostels or shelters? – Hostels and shelter are noisy, smelly, cramped, hard to get any sleep.



  • Various forms of drug and alcohol use
  • Mostly results from losing a job
  • High reported rates of violent crimes on the streets
  • Theft of the streets
  • High reported rates of sexual abuse
  • Living day to day, often living with other families

Further Resources

St Vincents de Paul Shelter

Big City Life – Homeless in New York

Big City Life: Homeless in NY (RT Documentary)

There are around 1,750,000 homeless people in the USA today. According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, nearly 64,000 people, including 22,000 children, are homeless in New York City. Through an artist who paints New York vagrants, RT relays the life stories of people who live on the edge, learns how they came to the streets and how to survive there. We also meet some of the dedicated volunteers who do what they can to help.

Documentary Notes

  • People feel safer on the streets
  • Have to sleep with one eye open in hostels
  • More opportunity to get mugged or raped in hostels
  • People commit crime on purpose in order to go to prison/jail to get shelter and food.
  • Homeless people do not have a fixed address and thus find it hard to claim certain benefits
  • Drastic increase in the number of soup kitchens opening up in New York
  • Easier to earn money on the streets
  • Cramped in hostels
  • Noisy & Unclean conditions in hostels
  • A lot of mental illness on the streets
  • Most people get into drugs and substance abuse issues after they are homeless
  • When you’re living on the streets it’s very hard to “come back” and improve your current living position

Ragnhild Lübbert Terpling Urban Sleeper

The Terpling Urban Sleeper is one of the only fully folding, free standing, self-contained designs currently in existence.

Its convenient design allows for the unit to be packed up within a matter of seconds if required.

The structural poles for the design are built in and none-removable but I can’t help but feel that there would be more structural integrity if the poles were angled and met at the top of the frame.


  • Compact Design
  • Freestanding
  • Large front opening
  • No assembly required
  • Contained structural elements
  • Fully Waterproof
  • Design allows for excess water to drip off naturally. Plenty of ventilation will prevent mildew forming.


  • Due to folding design it’s harder to build in a roll mat
  • Limited visibility top and behind
  • Lack of ventilation
  • Hot in summer
  • Could collapse (domino effect) under high winds/rain
  • Not kept taught length ways
  • No mosquito nets

Continue reading