Educated, Professional and Homeless – London turns a blind eye to a growing epidemic.
As Londoners we walk past homeless people on a daily basis, but how many of us can say we’ve stopped to help a single one?
In wake of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, educated London-based 48 year old film and television Producer Paul Atherton, will be living in his car for a year. This is in order to highlight and spread awareness on the struggles of homelessness. Atherton will be stationed in Zone 1 throughout the yearlong campaign from 12:00pm on Friday 21st October 2016 to Saturday 20th October 2017 on 11:59pm.
Paul Atherton has been homeless numerous times in his life, the last time due to errors on his credit file. He suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and when relapsed is reliant on Welfare Benefits. His life mirrored Daniel Blake’s, when his benefits were suspended for over 9 months due to being sanctioned for “being homeless” as he did not have a postal address. With no money and nowhere to live, he entered a spiral of depression, that when added to not being able to see his son at Christmas for the first time in his life, resulted in a suicide attempt.
Homelessness in London has become a silent epidemic, affecting people from all walks life. There currently 8’000 people sleeping rough in London every year and the numbers are increasing (www.streetsoflondon.org.uk).
Atherton has seen homelessness from both perspectives: firsthand and as a public servant. His account of working at DHSS in 1984, states “I witnessed the most inhuman behaviour from other human beings I’ve ever seen in my life. People who worked in the Supplementary Benefit office only cared for themselves and being paid.
They had no consideration for the desperation of the people who walked in through our doors, who were often only asking for support that was rightfully & legally theirs from the Public Servants paid to deliver it.” The desperation is fierce; the average homeless person will die by 47 years old. Making this campaign more prominent than ever to Atherton.
This sparked Atherton’s change provoking campaign, he later expands “I’ve been on both sides of the counter and things have got considerably worse since I worked for them.
This will assist with affecting societal change on what it means to be homeless as well as educating decision makers (Atherton has previously advised then Mayor Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Housing Richard Blakeway on the failings of the newly launched No Second Night Out).
Paul will be documenting his experience via his twitter account @Londonerslondon