Home Is Where The Heart Is

Tuesday, 10 May 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

This new three part series sees four very different celebrity households invite homeless people to stay with them for two weeks. Anneka Rice, chef Aldo Zilli, designers Colin and Justin and Britpop legend Alex James have all agreed to take a homeless person off the streets and into their homes. Assisted by homelessness experts, they’ll discover if they have the skills to become mentors and work with their guests to improve their situations and help their guests re-engage with mainstream society after they leave their homes. 

Jim, Danny, Bobby and Bridgette come from a range of backgrounds and their stories provide an insight into some of the issues that lie behind the problem of homelessness. Following their fortnight stay, the series follows them as they maintain contact with the celebrity they were paired with while continuing their efforts to put homelessness behind them. Their experience in trying to find accommodation, work and combat serious problems such as alcoholism and mental health concerns, provide a vivid demonstration of the struggle to break the cycle of homelessness. 

To manage the welfare of everyone involved, the whole project is being guided by Ed Tytherleigh, director of SPEAR, a homelessness charity. The framework of the series is backed by support workers of the homeless people taking part and is influenced by well established supported lodging schemes which have helped improve the lives of thousands of homeless people. 

Episode One Programme Information 

18 year old Danny Newton ran away from home four months ago and has lived in bus shelters, subways and abandoned flats. He arrives at Alex James’s 200 acre organic farm in the Cotswolds, where Alex lives with his wife and five children. Alex is renovating the farm and, after finding out that Danny is a qualified bricklayer, he puts him straight to work. Alex says: “If he wants to get back on his feet, let’s just try and get him back on his feet.” 

On meeting Alex, Danny says: “He’s got a family that matters to him and he loves and love him, a beautiful home and he’s still got everything to give to everyone; it’s fantastic.” 

In Glasgow, 34 year old Jim Gilraine arrives at the door of Colin and Justin’s Georgian townhouse. Having left home at 16, Jim, a long-term alcoholic, has spent the last two decades living on the streets. 

After meeting Jim and showing him their home, Justin says: “He’s clearly not remotely bothered that we’re gay, so that’s good…I hope he’ll be comfortable.” 

Jim says: “I hope they do genuinely care and I hope they’re not one of these people that go “yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll help, blah, blah, blah this” and then they didn’t, you’re just still stuck in the same doorway as the last time.” 

23 year old Bridgette Harvey, who has lived in a homeless hostel for the past four months, arrives at Anneka Rice’s West London home. She grew up in a family with alcohol problems and after her mum left when she was 11, Bridgette had to care for her younger siblings and her terminally ill father. 

Anneka says: “I’m not anxious because this house is sort of a community of people and we always have so many waifs and strays coming and going.” 

Looking at her home for the next fortnight, Bridgette says: “I’ve got my own bedroom and bathroom; that’s really cool. I weren’t expecting that. They’ve done all this for me.” 

Aldo Zilli’s family’s guest for the next fortnight is 23 year old former soldier Bobby Blunden, who was taken into care at eight years old and recently lost his place at a homeless hostel. 

Bobby says: “I’m not in it cos of celebrity, I’m in it because it’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

After explaining to his children that someone will be coming to stay with them, Aldo says: “I’ve been feeling a bit apprehensive because it’s not just me. I’ve got [my wife] Nikki, I’ve got my children. I’m exposing my family to the world.” 

On the first morning of having Jim to stay with them, Colin and Justin learn that two decades of alcohol abuse mean that Jim’s body can’t function without it and he asks for a beer for breakfast. Colin says: “It’s strange but I kind of understand this now. By not having a beer for breakfast Jim could die. That’s mind blowing.” 

During an emotional chat Jim reveals that he’d love to go in a helicopter, so the boys arrange for him to have a trip over Glasgow. 

Halfway through the first week Ed travels to see Jim and organises a medical appointment for him to help try to curb his alcoholism. But after a promising start, Jim’s struggling. He says: “I’m an alcoholic. I constantly think about beer. Like a heroin addict I will constantly think about the next fix. It won’t happen overnight in the space of ten days, this magic plan what’s been going on. It will take months.” 

Without a permanent address, and with a criminal record, its difficult for someone like Bobby to find a job. Aldo takes Bobby to the kitchens of his restaurant Zilli Fish and offers him the chance to work with him. 

Aldo agrees to employ him as commis chef in his restaurant, and reveals that he experienced homelessness first hand when he was 17: “I ended up no money in a big town in Germany and very hungry and no roof over my head. So I know where you’ve been. ” 

Anneka learns that, with Bridgette’s background of looking after her siblings and father, she’d be willing to do some care work, so Anneka organises some volunteer shifts with a local charity that provides support for the elderly. She also encourages her to take up painting. Bridgette says: “It’s nice to enjoy myself because that’s who I am, I’m not all about being manic depressive. I’m holding my head up high, with a lot of motivation which I’m getting from obviously living with Anneka and her family.” 

But after one of her shifts she tells Anneka that she felt she was going to have a panic attack. Anneka says: “I was so desperate to go along and peek through the window but I just wanted you to do it on your own. But if that happens again, you can call me.” 

In Gloucestershire, Danny’s family problems have caught up with him and he’s not working hard, but he hasn’t told Alex, who is worried that he’s slacking. 

Danny reveals to the production team that he’s been hearing voices telling him to harm himself and others. The production team call Ed, who arranges for a psychologist to visit Danny. Alex suspects there’s a problem, but Ed has to get Danny’s permission before revealing the provisional diagnosis to his mentor. Cross that he wasn’t told what was going on, Alex tells Ed: “Every ounce of my mental strength I’m focusing at this. I’ve got six other things going on, ok, it’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of money. I’m trying to make it happen. Are you arriving with some stupid bullshit false jeopardy for television? This isn’t about a television series, this is about him getting off his arse and back into some kind of meaningful life.” 

Alex later agrees to discuss a plan for Danny with Ed. He says: “First thing we need to nail is the flat otherwise he’s back out on his arse a week on Thursday so, you know, let’s grab one of those.” 

As the first week of mentoring draws to a close, all of the mentors and guests are realising what challenges lie ahead.

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