The filmmaker Lorna Tucker was once a teenage runaway and slept in London for 18 months. Twenty-five years later, she relives the harrowing experience for a documentary, returning to her former haunts and speaking to the homeless at a time when record numbers are living on the streets of Britain.
She was reunited with several of those she left behind, including “Darren”, who has been on the streets since his alcoholic mother was unable to care for him. “Darren sleeps where I used to sleep under Waterloo Bridge,” she said. “He still has the same eyes he had as a 15-year-old boy. He still has this beauty, but it’s clear he’s been very touched by it.
Many others had not survived, she discovered. “Ninety-nine percent of them died.”
The documentary, titled Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son, will hit theaters next year. Tucker wrote and directed, Colin Firth narrates, and Bryan Adams donated a song for use in the film.
Tucker said she wanted to give a voice to the homeless because not enough was being done to help them, and what was being done wasn’t working, in part because the people on the street weren’t being listened to.
Traumatized by domestic violence, she was 14 when she was cared for by older men. “They got me into crime. I climbed through windows for them, broke into stores for them. They gave me trainers… There were other kids they did this with. She ended up on the streets at the age of 15, became addicted and subjected to abuse and violence. Two of her friends were murdered in the street in their sleep.
She said: “The longer you are on the street, the more chance there is for dangerous things to happen. The more that happens, the more you take things to forget. It’s a downward cycle… We can all use our imaginations to find out what happens to young girls on the street.
Her life was changed by mentors with lived experience. ‘They paid for me to get trauma therapy, something I couldn’t afford because it’s not on the NHS. Then everything started to change… I started making documentaries, shooting a short film for Vivienne Westwood.”
The documentary – produced with the support of Dartmouth Films and Raindog Films – is a reminder that homelessness can happen to anyone. “When we think of homeless people, we think of them as ‘others’. Them. We don’t,” Tucker said.
She wanted to show the fragility of human nature. “In general, 80% of people who end up on the street have witnessed a childhood trauma. But I’ve met people on the street [from all walks of life, including] a female doctor from America who had lost everything.”
In the documentary, rough sleepers talk about being abused and learning to become invisible in order to survive, describing hostels as “very dangerous”. One says: “I live under the bridge with mice. Move to a hostel and pay the service charge and it’s full of cockroaches.”
Another is filmed as pedestrians walk past her as she sits on the sidewalk. ‘We’re not assholes… We were like them once. I’ve been here for five years. I have stopped domestic violence.”
A man says he ended up on the street after seeing his alcoholic stepfather “beat my mom so black and blue we didn’t think she would survive”.
Tucker wants the documentary to be shown across Britain and make a real difference. She wants to push charities and other organizations related to homelessness to take action with the government. “We have so many incredible homeless organizations and charities, all fighting to raise their money and doing incredible work. But they don’t work together,” she said.
She states that money is being spent “in the wrong places”, including on unsafe hostels. “If they built good, safe homes, you would not only get people off the streets, but… they could get back into society, earn money, pay taxes, study and become something. Then you save money on prisons, you save money on the NHS… on rehab. It’s that long-term thinking. The government doesn’t care because they have a four-year cycle.”
The film also features homelessness survivors who are now helping others. Among them is Earl Charlton, who was on and off the streets for 25 years from the age of 14 after experiencing domestic violence. He turned his life around and started an initiative for the homeless in the northeast.
Charlton said the documentary was “very powerful and straight from the heart”. He said, “Change has to happen.”