Eviction: the Hidden Homeless
The Vision (2010)
This documentary studies the devastating effect of homelessness on children. It profiles two British working class families caught between the high cost of housing and hopelessly bureaucratic social services. In both families the father is the bread winner – in one case a bus driver and the other a landscaper.
When the families suddenly become homeless, they are placed in a bed and breakfast, at enormous cost to the local authorities responsible for housing them. This approach – placing families in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation – is obviously very costly and significantly reduces the number of families local authorities can help. One of the families profiled must compete with hundreds of other homeless families in an on-line lottery for public housing units.
The film emphasizes the horrendous stress homelessness places on children. Besides missing out on regular nutritious meals (due to lack of cooking facilities), frequent placement changes causes them to miss a lot of school. Those who manage to attend face stigma, bullying and deteriorating achievement. Homeless children, on average, miss eleven weeks of school. A single episode of homelessness doubles the odds that a student won’t complete secondary school.
Above all, homeless kids face the continual threat they will be referred to child protective services and be removed from their parents’ care.
The documentary also poignantly depicts the cruelty of one housing bureaucracy when it rules ones of the families as “intentionally homeless,” after the department responsible for their housing subsidy misses the payment deadline to the department that collects their council house rent. This label – “intentionally homeless” – automatically disqualifies the family for government subsidized housing.