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article imageReview: Sofa surfing with Speech Debelle Special

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By Alexander Baron     May 29, 2012 in Environment
If you haven't heard of Speech Debelle, she is that rarest of creatures, a rapper with brains. In this programme however, she finds nothing to sing about as she follows other people down the same path she trod ten years ago.
First, if you think you might like her kind of music, check out the lady's website, and her entries on SongFacts.
In 2002, the 19 year old Corynne Elliot walked out of the family home in South London and for the next few years spent much of her time living on the streets in one form or another, but as she says in this BBC3 documentary, there is a lot more to being homeless than sleeping in a doorway and everything most of us usually associate with down and outs.
In Britain's Hidden Homeless - currently on iplayer for those who can receive it - she looks at the plights of a number of young people, only one of whom is actually sleeping rough, and another who is surprisingly a recent graduate.
The young are of course very vulnerable, girls for the obvious reason, but boys and young men can also fall into crime, drug abuse and worse, none of which is given any attention here. Someone who is under 18 years of age or leaving care, or a girl with a baby is in a much better position; these are all priority cases. But what about a young man who is literally sleeping rough, waiting to go into hospital for a major operation, but can't because of the post-operative care this will require?
In the capital, things are especially bad; the average cost of renting room here is £650 per month, says Debelle, and there are 5 people chasing every room. As a result of this, many youngsters end up staying with friends and relatives here and there - sofa surfing. Then there is the poverty trap. The graduate, a young woman, was sofa surfing; if she got a job, she wouldn't be entitled to housing benefit, so what was she to do? Happily, in the three months it took to research this programme, she found a way out, but she was clearly one of the lucky ones.
With an eloquence far more worthy of a consummate politician or diplomat than a rapper, Debelle explores the few alternatives that are open to the young, mostly charities. Since she left home ten years ago, things have got a lot worse: more than 2,000 beds for the homeless have been lost in the past year due to the cuts, so Call Me Dave can pay down the deficit, ie put money into the pockets of those who not only have more than enough already but produce nothing and contribute nothing to the economy, of Britain, of Greece, of anywhere.
This programme is both enlightening and sad in equal measure; what makes it even sadder is that most people will watch it, tut tut to themselves, then a day or a week later will have forgotten the plight of those whose stories have just been paraded across their screens.
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