Housing

Get A House For Free: admirable philanthropy or "poverty porn"?

Once homeless, Marco Robinson is now a millionaire who gave a £120k flat away for free to someone in need as part of a Channel 4 winner-takes-it-all reality documentary. Viewers, however, were split on whether this crossed the line into the TV exploitation of the poor.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukpim8INIxg

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.

Marco Robinson.

“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’.

https://twitter.com/VictoriasViews/status/895022561674842113

https://twitter.com/DavidAsh_Author/status/895020904153059330

The programme, however, was also an eye-opener for some viewers…

https://twitter.com/_daniellewh/status/895019502521470977

Others, meanwhile, noted the problem wasn’t with the programme itself, – but with the systematic housing crisis itself…

https://twitter.com/zaminax/status/895014666430283776

What do you think? Tweet us @BigIssue or email editorial@bigissue.com

Get a House for Free is available to view on Channel 4 On Demand

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