Our leaders and leaders-in-waiting could do worse than look to Ross Kemp for a critique of all that’s wrong with housing policy. The filmmaker and former EastEnders star was given a blank slate to make documentaries on four of Britain’s biggest issues for his new ITV series. So obviously he picked homelessness. After years of infiltrating gangs, facing war zones and hunting pirates off the coast of Somalia, Kemp wanted to look closer to home at issues that have been “stuffed under the carpet” while Brexit dominates the agenda.
In his mission to understand Britain’s homelessness crisis, he slept out on the coldest night in seven years in Cardiff with rough sleepers Connor and Jammo before spending the night in the city’s main shelter, the Huggard.
We can’t rely on charity, especially when we are paying our taxes. We need to be addressing homelessness head-on and that doesn’t seem to be happening
He sat unrecognised for four hours on the Welsh capital’s high street, spoken to only once by a drug dealer who offered him Spice.
And he headed to homelessness minister Heather Wheeler’s constituency in South Derbyshire and heard the story of Swadlincote’s Ebenezer Goode – a man who does not exist according to the official count that recorded zero rough sleepers in the area. And that’s after uncovering “racist” emails sent to the charity Burton Hope before the minister took up her role. Kemp tells The Big Issue why it’s so important that we make rough sleepers count.
The Big Issue: What drew you to covering homelessness?
Ross Kemp: I think over the last four years, whether intentional or not, the eyes of most of us have been on the future of this country and while we have been worrying about that the future has been happening. At 54 I have spent a lot of time travelling around the world looking at other countries’ problems and I thought I’ve got an opportunity here to show what has been going on – I think things have been stuffed under the carpet and I think people in authority have allowed that to happen, and it’s wrong.