It took less than 24 hours of being "homeless" to reduce Christian Wilkins to tears.

Affectionately nicknamed the “Prince” of Sydney thanks to his father Richard‘s status as Australia’s king of entertainment, it’s fair to say Christian Wilkins lives a life of privilege.

A look at his Instagram account reveals plenty of travel, VIP events and long, shiny locks that would make anyone jealous.

Yet for 10 days, the 22 year old traded his glamorous life for something far more gritty and dangerous – life on the streets.

Listen: The Binge’s Laura Brodnik and Brittany Stewart chat to Christian Wilkins about Filthy, Rich and Homeless. Post continues after audio.

Along with four other wealthy Australians, Wilkins handed in his phone, wallet, possessions and home comforts to experience what it is like to be homeless as part of SBS’ new three-part documentary series Filthy, Rich and Homeless, which airs tonight.

Some are already calling the show exploitative but Wilkins believes the show really will make a difference in the lives of people who need it.

Image: Getty


"I have seen people who've been saying that and not having seen the show [yet] it's been a bit difficult to go back but I'm so glad [that for others] the authenticity has come across," Wilkins told The Binge host Laura Brodnik.

"I very honestly stated homelessness was an issue I was ignorant about and didn't understand how people got to that point... to be ignorant on issues like this that are so large is a dumb and almost dangerous position to be in in the world that we live in.

"I really wanted to change that and meet people who I wouldn't normally meet and understand their stories and hopefully bring a voice to people who are affected and don't have one."

Five Five wealthy Australians took part in SBS' new documentary series.

Though the immersive experience can only go so far to show what it's really like to be homeless, the group quickly realised just how hard, dangerous and exhausting it can be.

In less than 24 hours, three had already been reduced to tears, including Wilkins who sought out a payphone to make an emotional reverse charges call to his mum.

Given Wilkins was told very little of the details of what the experience would entail, he says his family were obviously concerned for him - but also proud he was taking in part.

"Even though I had a breakdown on day one and had to call my mum, [they knew] I was in this for the right reasons and that I would stick it through. Ultimately it's not about us, it's about the issue and the people that we meet," he said.


While the participants obviously had a camera (and therefore person wielding the camera) following their every move, Wilkins said they were still able to get an authentic experience of sleeping on the streets alone.

"We're being filmed 24/7 so they [the team] are in the close proximity but when I was in a park quite close to the road, they stayed in a van where they could see me from the van but it was still 100 or so metres away," he explained.

"So I wasn't really aware that they were there, I didn't feel like they were with me...I didn't feel like I was being looked after or supported which I think was really important to understand what people are facing."

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While finding a place to sleep each night and always having to be constantly aware of your surroundings was certainly physically hard, the socialite says the hardest part of the whole experience was listening to the stories of people he met on the streets.

"I connected with a lot of them and I think viewers will to. People were so honest, raw and real and hearing how heartbreaking some of their stories are was really difficult. Especially because we couldn't help in that moment," he said.

"If I'm talking to a woman on the street and she's telling me how she goes begging everyday because she just wants $10 so she can have a shower where it's her private room and she won't be looked at by other men. Hearing that, all you want to do is give her $10 at least but we were so unable to do that. That was something I really struggled with."


It was his two nights spent with "buddy" Nigel, who has lived on the streets for over a decade, that Wilkins said gave him the most insight he took away from the whole experience and highlighted many misconceptions many have about homelessness.

"He explained the reason he drinks is so he can escape, so he doesn't need to think where he is. There's the idea that drugs and alcohol are reasons why people are homeless but in many cases it's not it, it's something that happens after, that people turn to because it is so isolating," he said.

"He really debunked the myth that homeless people come from low socio-economic backgrounds because he didn't, he was trained as a carpenter and he was quite well-spoke.

"He was so generous with his time and energy, so resourceful. So just spending time with him was so fantastic, one of my favourite people I met through the whole thing, taught me so much."

There are two main takeaways Wilkins will apply to everyday life now he's back in the comforts of home.

"I always appreciated how loving and supportive my family were but didn't appreciate how rare it is, that it's not just a given that you have parents that love you unconditionally," he said.

"I've also taken away that we are all just humans, product of our environment and it's not fair in a lot of cases. We all need to look after each other, if we can't do that then what does that say about everything else?

"If people have fallen down, should it not be the place of those who are lucky to reach down and help them up?"

Filthy Rich and Homeless airs 8:30pm Tuesday – Thursday on SBS.