Lee Nutley, 43, was found dead in his home on Monday after an ongoing battle with his health.
Nutley was thrown into the media spotlight last May when Channel 4‘s controversial documentary series Benefits Street aired.
The programme saw Nutley invite viewers into his home and his life, giving the audience an insight into his poor health.
Cleveland Police found Nutley at his home on Kingston Road, on the Tilery Estate where Channel 4 filmed Benefits Street.
They later reported the death was not suspicious.
Tributes have been flooding in on Facebook and Twitter honouring Lee, who was a popular member of the community.
— Terry Blackburn (@terrythesnapper) October 10, 2016
One friend wrote:
This world is such a cruel cruel place, another good lad taken too soon.
Thinking of his family and friends at this sad time – RIP Lee Nutley, gone but never forgotten.
Nutley had long battled a number of illnesses including epilepsy and heroin addiction, to which viewers bore witness on the TV show that documented how Nutley managed on the £45 of benefits he was allocated weekly.
At the time of Benefits Street‘s transmission, Nutley had been on prescribed anti-depressants for eight years, according to The Daily Mail.
After the show first aired, Nutley told The Gazette:
I’m in a much better place now. I was on anti-depressants when the cameras were here and my epilepsy is under control now.
I’m just waiting for one more test and once I’ve got the all clear I’ll be straight back to work.
I’ve worked all my life and I plan on getting back to it. If people think I want to sit on my backside on £45 a week, they are very wrong.
Lee appeared on Benefits Street with his mother, Chrissie, nicknamed ‘the Bard of Benefits Street’ for penning poems about the community.
The show came under fire from audiences and participants for demonising those who took part and turning their lives into ‘poverty porn’.
Just yesterday one of the show’s stars, White Dee, spoke out about the show and its consequences, which led her to attempt suicide.
Nutley said of his fame:
I don’t plan to become some big celebrity and earn loads of money. As far as I’m concerned you don’t need money to be happy, and us lot being filmed here will prove it.
The close-knit community of James Turner Street are sure to rally around Nutley’s friends and family at this difficult time.
Channel 4 are yet to release a statement.
RIP Lee. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.