daisy-may hudson is the surprising but vital face of homelessness in contemporary britain
The young filmmaker’s debut, made after she and her family were evicted, shines a light on hidden homelessness
Daisy-May Hudson does not look like the stereotypical media portrayal of a homeless person, and yet she has been one. With her hair done up in cute Bjork-like buns, extra large gold hoop earrings and killer nails, the 24-year-old does not fit the mould. She's an English and drama graduate who now works as a producer at i-D's parent company, VICE. But after finishing uni in June 2013 Daisy, her mum and younger sister were forced to declare themselves homeless.
The family had been living in rented accommodation in Epping for 13 years when their landlord Tesco, yes the supermarket chain, decided to sell the property. The family had been on a council house waiting list for the same number of years to no avail. Looking at a new private rental was beyond their means - Daisy's mum is a single parent in low paid work - so they were evicted and moved to temporary accommodation.
"I got a phone call from my mum while I was at uni, saying we were going to be evicted and had to declare ourselves homeless," Daisy explains, when we meet for coffee near her work in Shoreditch. "I came home in the middle of my dissertation. I was distraught." In the space of six weeks, the family were moved from their long term home to one hostel and then another. In her bewilderment, Daisy picked up a video camera and documented their situation.
Daisy didn't expect to spend the next year filming the family. You don't, she says, because you hope you'll get out of homelessness sooner. But there's no guarantee. From fighting council bureaucracy to wrestling their own demons while cooped up in temporary accommodation, Daisy's resulting film Half Way --financed via crowdfunding -- shines a light on hidden homelessness. i-D sat down her to discuss the stigma behind and survival of the hidden homeless.
After the family declared itself homeless, why did you decide to film the experience?
I didn't know what it turn into, but it felt like the only thing that would allow me to be active in a situation, where we couldn't do anything.
Were you surprised?
Not that you should take housing for granted but we did think it was our home and we would be safe there. When we found out they wanted to sell the house, we'd hoped we would find somewhere else to rent. But when there were no council houses to move into in the local area, we had no choice but to declare ourselves homeless. That was something I never, ever expected us to do. Although my mum is a single parent and we have been in and out of difficult economic situations, my mum has always been able to sort it. But this was something we weren't able to sort out.
Does low paid work play into this?
It's a sad state of affairs where wages have flatlined for the last 20 years but house prices have increased. It's not synced with how much people are earning. Even if you are not earning, I still think you have a right to a home. A lot more people now are in the rental market then are dependent on council housing, but council housing has declined since the 80s. It's a systemic problem of there not being enough housing and housing not being affordable.
The film shows the family's frustrations with the council…
Oh my god, there were so many. From a sympathetic side, I think councils are massively overstretched and have to work with smaller budgets. But it's a very archaic system, loads of bureaucracy and they treat you as if you are a scrounger. They see everybody in the same way, when every case is different. We were sharing our hostel with an NHS and TFL worker, who both had children.
What was the most challenging aspect?
Not having any information. There was a sense of the unknown. Once you are transferred to the hostel, you have no idea how long you're going to be in there. In the hostel, we didn't want to make it home. My mum didn't settle. She didn't want to put the blinds up as she didn't want to feel like we'd be there a long time.
Has the experience politicised you?
I was definitely political before but going through this process opened my eyes a lot. When we were in that situation, we felt extremely isolated and that isolation makes you feel dehumanised. After we got a house, I went to Focus E15 [the East Thames mothers fighting eviction] and the house they'd occupied. I walked in and just burst into tears because I wished I'd known that there were people out there who were willing to fight for others in that situation. Now, I understand the importance of having those connections.
You wrote about your experience whilst you were working at Vice. What reaction did you get?
When I started writing articles about housing, a lot of people tweeted "why don't you sell your iPhone? Why don't you stop getting your nails done?" I could sell my iPhone but that money is not going to get me anywhere close to a house. It's such a huge amount of money that no one could help.
Did you feel shame?
Definitely. We put a huge emphasis on home ownership in Britain so when your ability to do that is taken away there is a lot of shame. Homelessness has huge stigma. You see someone on the street and think they got there because of a certain situation. I hope the film shows you don't have to be ashamed of it and it's not your fault. It's the failure of the country we live in.
Half Way is showing in selected cinemas.
Text Colin Crummy