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  1. ITV Report

New fire chief: Judge rough sleepers on their potential, not their situation

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton will be one of the most senior firefighters in the UK Photo:

One of the most senior firefighters in the UK is sharing her experience of rough sleeping to change their attitudes to homelessness.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who starts her new job as head of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service in September, was made homeless as a teenager.

Sabrina starts her new job as head of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service in September

Sabrina and her family experienced extreme poverty after her father died when she was nine-years-old.

By the age of 15, she was homeless and was sleeping rough on the streets of Newport in Wales.

After working 12-hour days selling the Big Issue, Sabrina moved to a flat and joined the fire service.

She would like to urge people not to judge others who are homeless.

...if you could do one thing as a person tomorrow, it would be to have a conversation if you see someone who is experiencing homelessness. Make eye contact, say hello, have a conversation because it makes someone feel human again."

– Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Chief Fire Officer
Sabrina was homeless on the streets of Newport in Wales as a girl Credit: ITV
  • WATCH: Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton talks about what attracted her to the fire service

Despite Sabrina having no qualifications, the fire service took her "on the strength of who they believed [she] could be."

This positive attitude is something she wishes to encourage in the public.

Sabrina's appointment has increased the female representation of chief fire officers

Her appointment as head of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service has increased female representation in the force.

She said: "There are actually very few women chief fire officers in the country. Until I was appointed, there were actually more chief fire officers called Chris than there were women chiefs!"