THERE is no such thing as “the homeless”, only people experiencing homelessness, asserts the York project Homeless Bound, ahead of the December 13 launch of its interactive book at Central Methodist Church, St Saviourgate, York, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.
Working in tandem with the Good Organisation, at the Priory Street Centre, Coterminous CIC and producer/broadcaster Jez Russell, the year-long grassroots project has brought together 20 people with direct experience of homelessness to create content collaboratively for a book that uncovers how public misconceptions of homelessness continue to shape public attitudes.
“It’s a book about how public preconceptions of homelessness, and the language we use to discuss the issue, can lead to greater marginalisation and infantilisation,” says Jez.
One such preconception leads to the response: “I hate when people talk about ‘the homeless community’. It paints a false picture that everyone is looking out for each other when many people are dealing with their homelessness in isolation.”
Consequently, Homeless Bound challenges how the use of “othering” language such as “they” or “them” can inadvertently cause further exclusion and isolation for people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless Bound also explores the default perception of homelessness – a man in a doorway, living on the streets – that misrepresents its range and shifting nature, limiting our understanding of what homelessness is, leading to “the public often challenging the ‘realness’ of homelessness other than rough sleeping”.
Demonisation, criminalisation, gentrification, politicisation and blame are among the themes illustrated in the book, all factors that “further exclude and stigmatise those experiencing homelessness and ultimately make homelessness easier to ignore”.
The interactive book uses graphic design, photography and creative writing to explore a broad range of themes, such as “how language and stereotypes ultimately lead to the infantilisation and disempowerment of those affected by homelessness”.
The completed 120-page publication also addresses how prevailing public perceptions often retain a focus on the individual as “problematic”, rather than the systemic and structural causes of poverty.
Those who contributed brought a wide variety of personal insights, encompassing rough sleepers, those living in hostels or temporary accommodation, as well as individuals whose homelessness is hidden or rarely acknowledged.
In addition to building the confidence of all the participants, the project contributed to a thought-provoking discourse among those who took part, with a range of discussions on how best to articulate many of the underlying concerns and how to reframe those for a broader audience in an engaging manner.
The flexible nature of the activities enabled individuals to contribute written and visual content to the book, either as an attributed co-author or through anonymised quotes and other short submissions. Next month’s book launch provides an opportunity to meet some of those participants.
The book also incorporates pertinent games and puzzles, with each copy being distributed with an accompanying NFC tagged bookmark that links to a website that will act as an autonomous information and research repository, now being developed by LIFE (Lived Insights From Experience).
In addition to readings from the book, the launch provides a unique chance to view supplementary digital content. Free refreshments will be available.
As Fellow Of The Royal Society of Arts artist, filmmaker, playwright, author, journalist and social campaigner Paul Atherton says: “There is no such thing as ‘the homeless’. There are people experiencing homelessness. In the mind of the public, if you use terms like ‘the homeless’, people will immediately hear, ‘Oh that’s other, that’s not me!’.”
To reserve a free book launch ticket, go to: eventbrite.co.uk/e/homeless-bound-book-launch-tickets-469524479357. To buy the book, go to: coterminous.co.uk/product/HomelessBound/66?cp=true&sa=true&sbp=false&q=false
What is Coterminous CIC?
THIS collaborative project brings artists and designers together with those experiencing homelessness, ex-offenders and former drug users to co-create unique products.
What is the Good Organisation?
THIS heritage and tourism-based social enterprise is led by individuals affected by homelessness within York.