Housing

Veteran actor reveals how he went from Emmerdale to living in a tent

Daniel Coll “lost everything” after his business folded, he suffered mental health struggles and was involved in a car accident. He tells The Big Issue how he was able to turn his life around

Daniel Coll homeless actor

Daniel Coll has had bit-part roles in Braveheart, Coronation Street and Gentleman Jack as well as a recurring spot in Emmerdale – but his successful 30-year acting career was not enough to prevent him from falling into homelessness.

He spoke to The Big Issue to explain how “homelessness can happen to anyone” after his own life spiralled out of control. Daniel was left with post-traumatic stress disorder following a devastating 2015 car accident in which his daughter sustained severe injuries.

Then, in 2018, Daniel’s film production business failed and he soon fell behind with rent and was evicted from rented home, ending up living in a tent on the streets of Sheffield.

I’d done some big stuff but contrary to popular belief, actors don’t get paid a lot of money unless they’re superstars. And they are few and far between

Daniel said: “I lost everything. I had absolutely no money and I couldn’t afford to pay my rent and my stress levels went crazy and I then started getting severe PTSD. I went to the NHS to try to get some help and at that point there was a waiting list of nearly 12 months. I was penniless, facing homelessness.”

The two-month spell on the streets in April and May 2018 only came to end when Daniel was left with no option but to admit to his family that he had nowhere to live. That honesty, Daniel stresses, is crucial and saw him take up an option to stay at his sister’s caravan in Filey, North Yorkshire.

“When you become homeless your mental health deteriorates even more and I couldn’t get any work,” Daniel told The Big Issue. “I didn’t tell my family because I was ashamed and I was in a tent for two months and had just about money to survive – eat food, camp or sleep in my car.

“I’d done some big stuff but contrary to popular belief, actors don’t get paid a lot of money unless they’re superstars. And they are few and far between. And that’s not why I was in the business anyway, I was in it because it was a passion.

“When I told my family they came and helped and I’d encourage anyone in that situation with family to talk to them, don’t let the shame get to you. It’s very difficult being in this position when you’re your fifties, struggling to get a deposit together and not having anywhere to live.”

Defiant Daniel was determined to get himself out of his situation. Despite being hamstrung by his living conditions, the 59-year-old managed to secure a spot on a master’s degree course studying film-making at Sheffield Hallam University. With the help of financial support from Actors’ Children’s Trust and other charities, Daniel was able to scrape together a deposit and enough money to live in student accommodation and cover his tuition fees.

It was a second chance that Daniel has grabbed with both hands – this week his new show Dan and Paddy’s Bucket List launches on, seeing him team-up with Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’s Paddy Doherty to travel around Kyushu in Japan. Daniel pitched the show to a number of production companies while at the end of his master’s course in 2019 after befriending Paddy, himself fresh from a prostate cancer battle, while making a documentary.

Now he plans to follow that up with a homelessness documentary to shed light on what he sees as the unpicking of the safety net that saw him forced to turn to family and charities in his hour of need rather than the state.

Daniel added: “Just being able to wash your clothes, store things, those basic essentials that we all take for granted, those are the things that rapidly disappear when you’re homeless and this can happen to absolutely anyone. You fall off the net and this system isn’t there, it works against people on my opinion. They’re failing people miserably.”

Dan and Paddy’s Bucket List – Kyushu, Japan is on TravelXP

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