Marco Robinson spent his childhood sleeping rough in Derbyshire and London. Now a self-made millionaire, he decided to give something back and help someone else in need.
As part of a Channel 4 documentary Get A House For Free, the British entrepreneur dipped into his 150-wide global property portfolio to donate a three-bed flat worth £120,000 in Preston.
The show, which aired last night, followed Robinson over six weeks as he meets and shortlists over 8,000 candidates – ultimately donating the property to person he felt deserved it most.
The 49-year-old father of two, who is worth £25 million, announced in January, saying he wanted to “to give someone the lucky break like I was given”. Robinson slept rough as a child when his mother left their turbulent family home. By the age of 10, he had been to more than 20 schools and struggled with homeless throughout his teens.
“I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings, at one point my mother and I were forced to sleep on a park bench, but through extremely hard work I have been fortunate enough to reach a position where I now own a number of properties around the world,” the property guru said.
At one point my mother and I were forced to sleep on a park bench
“Now I want to give something back to someone who needs my help and would love to find someone for whom receiving this flat would be a life-changing event.”
However, the premise of the documentary was not wholly welcomed, and was met with criticism. The Guardian’s Fiona Sturges dubbed the show “poverty porn at its most pernicious” and Twitter last night saw viewers (below) describe the concept as ‘exploitative’.
I deeply question the authenticity of Robinson's altruism when it's both televised and monetized. -Satire Phillip
— Satire's Sudsworks (@SatireSuds) August 9, 2017
@Channel4 just caught last 15 mins of Get A House For Free. Some rich bloke's vanity project. Cynical, exploitative programming. Shameful.
— Kerry D'Souza (@kerryd278) August 8, 2017
Get a House For Free is such a cruel programme. Making vulnerable and desperate people compete like this is heartbreaking.
— Victoria (@VictoriasViews) August 8, 2017
"Get a house for free" seems to be a cross between the National Lottery and "The Hunger Games."
— David Ash (Author) (@DavidAsh_Author) August 8, 2017
The programme, however, was also an eye-opener for some viewers…
This Get a House for Free is out to make me cry. I didn't know asylum seekers with cases pending couldn't work. Jesus Christ.
— Danielle. (@_daniellewh) August 8, 2017
Others, meanwhile, noted the problem wasn’t with the programme itself, – but with the systematic housing crisis itself…
"Get a house for free" is just a drop in the ocean in comparison to the overall problem of housing.
— Mina (@zaminax) August 8, 2017
It's terrible that a program like Get a house for free on @Channel4 can exist.
It shows that everyone without a home deserves a home……..
— Spleenal (@spleenal) August 8, 2017
What do you think? Tweet us @BigIssue or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Get a House for Free is available to view on Channel 4 On Demand