“…But that’s what people think we are”. The very word “homelessness” comes loaded with preconceptions and stigma. Everyday conceptions paint a narrow view of people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. It’s these types of images that the Glasgow Simon Community wants to challenge and change.
We have been working together as part of Better by Design, a Big Lottery Scotland programme to test design-led thinking and approaches across the third sector. We both wanted to do some research that would challenge, as well as give new and unique insights into how people experience homelessness first hand.
We had only had five short days, but settled on a project to document the meaning and experience of homelessness through images taken by those who have experienced it themselves. Working with peer volunteers in Glasgow to document some stories of homelessness.
Our role has been about training and supporting the team at Glasgow Simon Community in social research – the different techniques, methods, and the tricky task of how to get people to answer your questions. We co-designed the project with a group of peer volunteers, working through how to choose who to work with, the type of questions to ask, and the complex ethical issues surrounding these types of research.
All the volunteers were excited by the opportunity to influence, as well as learn and develop skills. Throughout our first session they also expressed their own concerns – from benefits sanctioned without any apparent reason, to stressed and apparently uncaring job centre staff, and the threat of debt and homelessness as a result of the bedroom tax.
We’ll be coming back together in the next few weeks to review the interviews the peer volunteers have conducted. With our help we hope to pull the stories they have collected together to provide an alternative view of homelessness. The report will showcase these stories through photographs.
Our five days are not going to change the world. But starting to enable those who are part of a community to take the lead on having their voice heard is a good start.