Scandal of homelessness must be society's top priority says Crisis at BFI Southbank Cathy Come Home screening

5 October 2011

The scandal of the rising tide of homelessness [1] must again be society's priority for action said Crisis Director of Policy Duncan Shrubsole, when the homelessness charity hosted a special screening of the landmark film Cathy Come Home, directed by Ken Loach as part of the BFI's complete retrospective of films by the British director.[2]

Shrubsole was joined by the renowned director on Tuesday evening (4 October) to debate the topic "Will homelessness ever end?" after a sell-out screening of the landmark television film which led to the founding of homelessness charities like Crisis [3] back in 1967. The debate was chaired by journalist Polly Toynbee.

Crisis marks the 40th anniversary of Crisis at Christmas in 2011 and Shrubsole says the timing of this sell-out film debate is very significant:

 "Cathy Come Home brought the scandal of homelessness to the public's attention for the first time. The BBC drama was one of the catalysts which led to the creation of Crisis, which makes the screening at BFI Southbank especially poignant.

"Since the film was first broadcast significant progress has been made with regard to families who are now legally entitled to accommodation from their local authority.

"However, the legal situation for single homeless people remains largely unchanged. Unless they can prove that they are particularly vulnerable, single homeless people are still not entitled to accommodation. Whilst Crisis recognises that successive governments have worked to address homelessness over recent years, it is a scandal that in 2011 single people can be left with no alternative to sleeping on the streets." [4]

Director Ken Loach met members of Crisis Skylight London before the screening event, who joined the audience to make contributions from their personal histories of homelessness.

Speaking during the post-film debate Loach said: Homelessness is as big an issue now as it was in 1966. We need to recognise that it is the economic system itself, capitalism, that causes people to be homeless. It's about time we started to look at this, the fundamental issue"

For more information, contact the Crisis Press Team on 0702 426 3880, or 07973 372587

Editor's Notes

1. Homelessness Figures Rising

3,975 people slept rough in London during 2010/11, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year. After a major decline from 2003-2009, the number of people approaching their local authority as homeless rose by 15% during the 2010/11 financial year to 102,200 households, and the headline measure of acceptances increased by 10% to 44,160.  These figures are included in: The Homelessness Monitor: Tracking the Impacts of Policy and Economic Change in England, a report commissioned by Crisis and undertaken by Heriot-Watt University and the University of York which warns that after years of stable or falling levels of homelessness, 2010 marked the turning point when homelessness in all its forms started to rise again.

2. Ken Loach restrospective at BFI Southbank, 2 September to 12 October

Ken Loach was 75 in June but continues to make provocative and emotionally powerful films. We celebrate England's most distinguished - but still highly controversial - director, responsible for over 50 television plays, documentaries and feature films.

 About the BFI

The BFI is the lead body for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which     innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

  • Connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema
  • Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
  • Investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
  • Promoting British film and talent to the world
  • Growing the next generation of film makers and audiences

3. Background on Crisis

Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. We are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Our innovative education, employment, housing and well-being services address individual needs and help people to transform their lives. We are determined campaigners, working to prevent people from becoming homeless and advocating solutions informed by research and our direct experience. We have ambitious plans for the future and are committed to help more people in more places across the UK. We know we won't end homelessness overnight or on our own. But we take a lead, collaborate with others and, together, make change happen.

 4. No one Turned Away Campaign

Crisis has launched an online petition calling for the government to strengthen the law so that no one is forced to sleep rough.  The petition calls for all single homeless people to have the right to receive written advice, real assistance and emergency accommodation when they need it.

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