films that make a difference
BAFTA winning film-maker, Jezza Neumann, follows two families affected by London’s housing crisis. Over a period of 18 months, we see them evicted by their private landlords, trapped for over a year in a homeless hostel, and sofa-surfing with friends and family for months on end. Throughout this ordeal, eleven-year-old Ellie and ten-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 – when 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 damaging that experience can be.
Ellie (11) and her family – brother Aaron (9) and twin sisters Olivia and Chloe (5), and single mum Erika – have been living in a privately rented flat in South London for two years. But their whole world is about to be turned upside down. They tell us that after repeatedly asking their landlord to deal with deteriorating conditions – like the mould that’s spread across her bedroom, leaving mum Erika with little choice but to sleep on the sofa downstairs – instead of trying to fix them the landlord has simply decided to evict them. Under current legislation, he has every right to do this.
We see Ellie amidst packing boxes as her mum frantically tries to gather the family’s belongings together so they can get out of the house before the bailiffs arrive. The disruption of the move is hitting Ellie where it hurts most – her school and friends. She’s a high achiever who’s passionate about learning and is devastated at the thought of missing or moving school and leaving her best friend and nearby neighbour behind.
Erika wants to reassure the children, but it’s tricky hiding her concern from her eldest daughter. Will the local council help to house them? If so, where will that be? One of Erika’s biggest fears is being relocated to a temporary hostel – living there as an adult is one thing, but with four young kids it’s a whole different equation. We accompany Ellie and her family as they ride the wave of homelessness, trying to retain some normality in the face of abrupt change.
When we meet JJ (10), his sister Jahniyah (3) and their mum Nicole, they are already living in the world of temporary hostels, in fact they’ve been homeless for over 6 months. Because the council have labeled them “intentionally homeless” – they chose to leave their privately rented flat when the landlord failed to fix the boiler – they have no legal obligation to house the family and it’s down to Nicole to find somewhere adequate that they can afford.
JJ’s not a big fan of the hostel. With mice running about over their beds and his little sister repeatedly getting sick, their shared room feels far from peaceful or safe. It’s also against house rules to have visitors, which means JJ can’t have any of his friends round to play or for sleepovers. He’s too embarrassed to admit that he doesn’t have a home and feels bad about having to lie to his friends about their situation.
But even the hostel isn’t a sure thing – it’s provided as emergency accommodation so the family will soon be moved on. The uncertainty of not having an eviction date is making Nicole stressed and she’s afraid they’ll get home any day to discover the bailiffs have changed the locks. Alongside frantic house hunting, Nicole is trying not to fall too far behind in her University studies. She’s already worried that all the disruption will mean having to repeat the year. Her biggest priority though is staying within the local area. Faced with a choice between sofa surfing or pulling JJ out of his school again and away from his friends in the borough, what will she decide?
Private renting is notoriously precarious. However, a shortage of social housing means families are often left with no other choice. This film exposes the cycle of homelessness that many families are experiencing and what this looks like for the children that it hits hardest.
The following organisations help those affected by the issues raised in No Place to Call Home:
Shelter – England 0808 800 4444 (8am–8pm on weekdays and 8am–5pm on weekends, 365 days a year)
Shelter - Scotland 0808 800 4444 (9am–5pm on weekdays)
Shelter Cymru - Wales 0845 075 5005
Samaritans 08457 909090 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
If you wish to know more about the families featured in this film, then you can email [email protected] who can give you further information.