Privileged toes dipping in homelessness: Filthy Rich & Homeless

Samaritans CEO

If your home, your possessions and your support network were stripped from you – what would you do?

This is the exact predicament that forms the foundation for a new SBS documentary meets social experiment airing next week, Filthy Rich and Homeless.

It follows five “wealthy Australians” who swap their lives of privilege for that of homelessness. For 10 days and nights on the streets of Melbourne, they experience life in squats, crisis accommodation, boarding houses and on the streets.

Social experiments like Filthy Rich and Homeless are catalysts to start important conversations: about affordable housing, about the availability of mental health services and about the crisis of homelessness in this country.

While it shouldn’t take a TV show like this to open our eyes to these important issues, giving viewers the feeling of living “a day in the life of” a homeless Australian offers insight and often empathy that words cannot conjure.

Experiencing homelessness is an incredible hardship. Samaritans staff see first-hand the effect that violent homes, relationship breakdown and job loss can have on people: the resulting homelessness can be crippling and seemingly endless.

Samaritans sees people as young as 12 entering our youth crisis services who have had to run away from abusive homes. We also see people who have lived a relatively fortunate life but due to relationship breakdown, job loss and depression, are now sleeping in their car with nowhere else to go.

Homelessness is complex. People couch surfing, living in boarding houses or sleeping rough aren’t lazy. They don’t need to “try harder” or “just get a job”. People experiencing homelessness are in the middle of a web of complications in their life from which they struggle to break free. Often this includes mental health struggles, lack of family connection or support, poverty and can even involve addiction and substance abuse.

Samaritans is one of the many providers privileged to work on the front line to tackle homelessness. We offer numerous homelessness services including youth and women’s refuges, transitional housing and outreach support.

We are in the middle of our 2017 Winter Appeal trying to draw attention and raise funds for Youth Homelessness: An Invisible Crisis.

Let’s hope the momentum following next week’s SBS program branches into broader discussion around the need to invest more in tackling the crisis of homelessness in Australia.

Filthy Rich and Homeless airs over three nights – Tuesday 27, Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 June on SBS from 8.30pm.