The Doorways Project

A couple of months the Idle Ethnographer wrote about the war on public space unfolding across Europe. However recognising this trend leaves us with the obvious question of who is being excluded from this space and how do they see it? This is what The Doorways Project seeks to illuminate:

Rough sleeping is an “absolute form of exclusion” (Mills, 2005) and is a social issue that is widely misunderstood. Public attitude surveys suggest that one of the biggest misconceptions is that people living on the streets are there by choice, assuming that complex issues such as mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, debt or relationship breakdown are the fault of the person concerned, rather than understanding the complexity of these situations.

However, homelessness is rarely a choice and prior to becoming homeless people do everything they can to prevent ending up on the streets. Yet, it has been recognized by those working with homeless people that those sleeping rough for a period of time “acclimatize” to the streets and become part of what Academic Megan Ravenhill calls Homeless culture.

“any serious attempt at resettling long-term rough sleepers needs to consider what it is that the homeless culture offers and whether or how this can be replicated within housed society” (Ravenhill, 2008)

The Doorways Project aims to raise awareness of the complexity of the issue and explore the notion of a homeless culture in a non-judgmental, yet unsentimental way. Offering homeless people a voice within mainstream culture will offer a range of audiences the opportunity to engage with the issues which, on the whole, remain – or are kept – invisible. The project is an ambitious attempt to explore the subject of homelessness, in a non-judgemental and honest exploration telling the stories of homeless people, which differs from the ‘deficit model’ where homeless people are portrayed as victims. The project reverses this model by giving homeless people a voice and focusing on the realities of street life through personal experience. The intention behind collecting everyday stories about life on the streets is to humanize a situation that many people often find threatening and uncomfortable, and to challenge the notions of blame and victimisation. The direct voice, apart from asserting its human presence, enables listeners to connect on a personal level and enter the speaker’s world of experience.

This past project by the artist explores their own experience of sleeping rough in London for a few years. I found it extremely powerful and wish I could see the full body of work:

I spent several years homeless in Central London. I remember wandering aimlessly around the streets in the rain, feeling so cold and alone, looking down because I never had the confidence to look up. I was always fascinated by the reflections of London in the puddles, the beauty in the darkness of the water and the shapes and patterns jumping back at me. So I decided to re-trace those aimless walks and photograph the puddles – it made sense to me to photograph the streets and the beauty there that is so easy to walk by.

Where I slept last night: Hungerford Bridge.

Categories: Rethinking The World

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