Daniel's story. 'It’s changed my perception of what homelessness is. It’s not just rough sleeping.'
"I run lots of workshops around mental health and other life experiences that teach people how to use photography as a way to explore difficulties and equip them with the skills to do that on their own so that they have a sense of agency that’s led by them.
This was the first time I’d worked with homeless people though, and I think coming in as a new person with not much experience was probably the best way to do it, because it meant that I just went in and met people and formed my own opinions of homelessness on an individual basis. Everybody in the group has such a different experience that it really challenged me. It’s changed my perception of what homelessness is. It’s not just rough sleeping. It’s ordinary people who’ve fallen into extraordinary circumstances.
Talking to one of the participants in the group about coming out of prison and then not having anywhere to go reminded me of when I’d come out of psychiatric hospital and the person I was living with told me I had to leave. I ended up having nowhere to live either and had to stay with friends just as I’d got out of hospital. Working with this group has made me see that this was an experience of homelessness as well. You’re basically asking people if you stay with them until you can get yourself sorted, and now everytime I have to move house I have extreme anxiety around moving or dealing with a landlord or something. It’s over ten years ago but it really had an impact on me and how I think about home and how important it is to have somewhere stable and safe to go back to.
In the first couple of weeks I was quite apprehensive about saying certain things because it’s hard gauge how people will respond, but having a good sense of humour and a good laugh in the sessions has enabled people to open up. It’s been really nice just getting to know people, to learn about who they are, what they’ve been going through, what they want to explore, and what they want to create. It gave everybody a space to work openly and support each and lead their own creative path. They came up with their own creative ideas, I was just there to facilitate their creativity.
I hope that people will just stop and speak to homeless people and get to know them more. You don’t have to give up to give up a whole day volunteering, and you don’t have to give lots of money to charities or to individuals. If you just listen to someone and talk to them. Making them feel seen and heard is often enough to validate them and acknowledge they exist. That can be so important. Instead of just passing someone by try to connect with someone. Just be human."
By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.