Professor Green appears to be living a double life on our TV screens. On Friday nights he’s the hyped-up judge of Channel 5’s cheesy Lip Sync Battle UK, but weeknights he prefers to front sobering documentaries for the BBC, like last autumn’s Suicide and Me, in which he explored the reasons why his dad killed himself and why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.
Presumably on the strength of that, he’s now presenting two new docs for BBC3. One on dangerous dogs can be seen after the channel moves online, but on Tuesday night he starts with an immersive examination of the phenomenon of youth homelessness.
Getting to the human truth behind the statistics — the latest estimates suggest that three times as many young people experience homelessness every year than official figures state — Professor Green gets to know a number of people who are or who have been homeless.
The “hidden” in the title refers to the fact that many young people are not counted as homeless in statistics as they are sofa surfing or staying with friends. But as Dionne Warwick sang, “A House Is Not a Home.” It’s hard to hold down a job if you have no permanent address.
But most affecting is the time Green spends with Luke, a young rough sleeper in Manchester, who spends his nights endlessly walking the city centre while struggling with an addiction to “spice”, legal highs of synthetic cannabis, which seem to have the effects of much harder illegal drugs.
He alternates between paranoia and bravado, as he in turn threatens a shopkeeper who refuses to sell him “spice” and then, when high, takes to stopping traffic in the middle of the road.
At times the film does seem like a government health warning about the dangers of legal highs, they appear to be increasingly the crutch that young homeless people are using to cope with the awfulness of their situations, definitely more than alcohol.
Green is an open, honest interviewer who acts almost like an older brother to Luke, chiding him for smoking too much spice and acting idiotically. The shock on his face at some of the more dreadful stories he hears, as well as his easy ability to connect with most people, pull you into feeling the plight of the young fighting to find a place to call their own.
It’s not all downbeat. He also meets Soceena, who is in a women’s hostel in London where she has learnt catering skills, and is preparing to move into her own flat, with the hostel’s continuing support.
The underlying messages are there throughout. Young people are becoming increasingly homeless thanks to exorbitantly priced properties, while government cuts mean that homeless people who do move into flats or hostels are struggling to get the support they need to stop them ending back on the streets.
After an upsetting final scene involving Luke, Green concludes, “I wouldn’t say I have any more hope now than when I started. If anything, less.” You may agree.
Professor Green: Hidden and Homeless is on BBC3 on Tuesday 9th February at 9pm