Tuesday, 27 July 2010

31) Cornerstone Day Centre 4

Thursday 22nd July

Soraya and I arrived at the day centre at lunch time. I feel more confident walking in now, I know where to go, I recognise a few faces and generally feel less intimidated. I got a bowl of soup and a man offered me a free seat. During the walk there Soraya had got me thinking about why exactly I was doing this project and how I wanted the audience to react and respond after receiving the message.

We concluded the conversation with agreeing that I needed to meet with the client again to clear up a few loose ends.

The man from the previous visit, who pulled off his finger nails, called us over to his table. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to photograph his hands, however, once again he left before I had the chance. It's a difficult thing to bring into a natural flowing conversation.

He's explaining to me about British history and politics and I'm smiling, nodding along thinking, "how can I link this conversation with, can I take a photograph of your hand?"

I love watching people at the food counter. A man asked for a few slices of cucumber and a tray bake to be put in a little bag for ten pence. Watching him take the time to count out 10p from the money in his pocket was so touching. I can't remember the last time I bought something for 10p, it made me appreciate the value of money.

To me 10p is just loose change that makes my purse heavy, to that man 10p is worth a few slices of cucumber and a tray bake.

I forgot to mention on a previous soup run that a man gave me a marble. I was serving food and one man said, "Are you going to smile properly?" I looked up and he was smiling at me. I think he was trying to be nice. I took it as a compliment, rather than, 'what's wrong with your face?' Then the next guy in the queue gave me a white marble that he had found earlier. He didn't really say anything, he just gave me it. I know a marble isn't worth much, but the sentiment of someone offering me a small token meant a lot. I'll keep that marble.

Back at the day centre I got a cup of tea and sat at a table with an African man named Ali. I asked if I could sit down, he nodded, Ali seemed quiet shy. I am very wary meeting new people in the day centre, as you just don't know how people are going react towards you. I find myself speaking as I would to a child. Very slowly, clearly and asking basic questions. What is your name? Have you had your lunch yet? Was it nice? It gives people a chance to suss me out and get to know me. I notice when people are feeling a little uncomfortable they rarely sit still. They go to the bathroom, they go and get a drink, they go and get food, they are always on the move. I back off.

Ali eventually settled down. He saw me speaking to others which gave him more confidence. His friends seem to make fun of his memory. Saying, "Ali what's my name?" He says, "He is my friend but i cannot remember his name." His friends ask him what day it is? Ali guesses and says "Monday," it was Thursday. Everyone laughed, including Ali. I told him about my project, he seemed interested, but not enough to be involved. I decided to show him the photographs I had already taken of other people's hands and asked him what he thought. He began to understand the concept. I showed him the stories of other people I had collected and he was interested in how the stories matched the hands.

I asked again if I could photograph his hands. He said yes. I asked Ali what he thought his photograph said about himself. He didn't know. I explained that I could see he was hard working. He agreed. That he was a kind and honest man. He agreed. And I told him he was a good listener. He agreed.

Ali is from Somalia and wants to go home to see his mother. He came over and studied at university however he says he has somehow lost all of his ambition.

“ I think I am open minded and always willing to learn.”

We talk about living in England and I ask if he likes the weather, he simply says, “Not really… I get wet.”

I ask Ali about his plans for the future and if he sees himself getting home to his mother. He says,

“I am waiting for something to happen” he pauses “Some people make things happen” he looks at me and smiles, “Maybe I should make something happen.”

I smile and nod.

There was something very simple and charming about Ali. He then went and got me a cup of tea and a biscuit. Later that afternoon Ali taught me the basics of Arabic.

We both learnt something that day.

There is a guy with special needs called Darren. He sat beside me. Someone told me Darren likes girls in skirts. I was wearing a skirt. I asked Darren about the ring he was wearing. He told me his girlfriend gave it to him. I asked him what his girlfriend was like? He said, "She's lovely."

As I was speaking to Darren I overheard Ali talking to someone else, he referred to me as a journalist.

Sitting outside with Soraya, who was in deep conversation with someone about the Mustard Tree Charity, I noticed a man stumble over to the table I was sitting at. He was obviously on something. He turned round and asked me where I was from. I didn't really want to talk to him so I briefly said, Northern Ireland. His friends called him, encouraging him not to speak to me. When he turned to walk away I saw he had half an ear. There was one large bite mark. I couldn't believe it. Soraya was in too deep a conversation to interrupt.

I was ready and waiting to go, when I heard an argument start. A foreign man in crutches was arguing with a woman, possibly his girlfriend, and the manager of Cornerstones. I didn't quite understand the issues but they were yelling about heroine abuse, money, lying and the man was being asked to leave and told to sort himself out. It was very awkward as everyone sitting outside went quiet. I didn't know where to look, so I just watched a pigeon hop down some steps.

I passed the man in the street a few days later, he was on his own.

My parents came to visit me at the weekend. I had told them all about the work I was doing for my final major project. I explained to them that it is a very interesting topic and that I am being very clever. They leave me to get on with it.

One day returning to my flat, there is a homeless man sitting outside the entrance with his face in his hands. I know the person and I have in fact taken a photograph of his hands before. It's Billy, the first person I photographed, the person who got a free meal for speaking to me. I ask him if he is ok? He says yes, he is just tired. He asks if any of us smoke. We say no. He wishes us a nice day.

I reassure my parents by saying, "I feel safer knowing the people on the streets, I know that they won't hurt me." My mum says, "yes, but now he knows where you live."

A good point.

Later I see 9 people sitting with Billy. They say, "Hiya love, take care" They all seem hyped up about something, something has happened.

10 minutes later they are moved on by security.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

30) Cornerstone Day Centre 3

Tuesday 20th July, today was pretty slow at the day centre. A few people did not want to be involved in the project. This morning I sat at a table with three men, all very different. One was very well read, reading a book on politics, technology and science. One was very intelligent and doing a crossword, and one was a Bob Dylan fan, reading a joke on the back of a penguin chocolate bar.


I told them about my project and the well read man showed me his hands. He said he had pulled off his finger nails when he was high.

Everyone at the table looked up in disgust and all I heard was, “aww John man, I’m trying to eat my penguin!”

It was very funny!

John left before I got to photograph his hands, so I hope I see him again.

Micheal / 28

Micheal is a fire juggler who performs at festivals.

He is currently squatting and spends most of his time in the park. He says he is currently protesting as builders threaten to bulldoze the park.

He says the park is the social area for those who can’t afford to go to pubs and everyone is welcome.

“I am fighting for freedom”

What do you think you are saying in this photograph of your hands?

“Just take me as I am”

Micheal invites me to the park. I decline.

Micheal asks for my number. I decline.

Joseph / 41

“I’m pretty happy at the moment. Meeting you two and chatting with you makes me feel confident. I was shy at school.

I would like to do some voluntary work, I’m not interested in money. Life is all about money, but it should be about love.

Meeting people has more value than money.”

29) Cornerstone Day Centre 2

On Thursday 15th July I went back to the day centre to meet more people and take more photographs. I was a lot more confident this time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I sat next to a man named George.

George / 72

George was in the army for 2 years, he fought in Singapore between1956-58.

He used to be a photographer, he had his own dark room and took photographs for the Area News. He photographed communities and earned £10 a picture.

“Volunteering saved me. I had worked all my life then I got Protestant Work Syndrome. I was suddenly made redundant, and I felt useless. If you can’t work, you think you’re useless. In 1995 I volunteered helping the homeless and it gave me purpose again. I try and help other people but one thing you learn here is you don’t ask questions.”

Jackie / 55

Jackie is a 55 year old punk rocker. She has a shaved head and a lime green Mohawk.

She has a shopping bag with different types of coffee in it. She is preparing for her daughter getting out of jail on Friday.

I had noticed Jackie across the room the previous day and thought I could never approach her because of her strong appearance, however, she was really easy to talk to.

Jackie wore a rubber band that had S.O.P.H.I.E printed on it. I asked what it meant. It stands for, Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere. It was in memory of a 21 year old girl called Sophie Lancaster who had recently been kicked to death for dressing as a goth. She was standing up for her boyfriend Robbie who survived the attack. Jackie has spoken to Robbie since and he cannot comprehend what has happened. A rock concert has been arranged in her memory and Jackie is going to attend.

Jackie told me an interesting story about how she was present at the 1971 Ibrox disaster in Glasgow when a stairway in the football stadium collapsed killing 66 people. She said she was 5 years old and her brother threw her onto the pitch. Had he not, she would have been crushed.

I asked Jackie what a punk rocker was. She said, “a rebel with a cause.”

She answered pretty quickly, something tells me she has answered that question before.

I spoke to the next person for a few hours. I just listened and learned.

For the purpose of the blog I am going to change his name.

Matty / 47

As a child Matty was beaten by his father, and his mother told him he was evil. He was a white man in Manchester's predominantly black, gooch gang. He grew up during violent times and made a lot of money as a drug dealer.

Matty's health has deteriorated and he looks older than his age. As I am introduced to him he seems lovely, he is happy and smiley and I instantly feel comfortable in his company. Matty talks very openly and honestly, he talks about getting flash backs. I ask him what they are of. He explains it is of him standing over someone watching them bleed. Speaking very quietly, so others cannot hear, I have to lean in to listen. I ask him what happened. He explains that he shot a man in the head and watched him bleed. I go nervous inside. I said, did he die? He said yes. I asked why? He said the man was black, from Jamaica and he was trying to kill him too. To clarify I said, so it was either him or you? He said yes.

There was silence.

I said, "how did it feel?"

He paused, looked me straight in the eye and said, "good...really good."

I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. He was like a character from a film. He served his sentence. I asked how he got caught. He smiled and said the police were very clever.

The longer we talked the more I warmed to him, but my head kept repeating words that has clearly impacted me.

I almost cried as he talked about losing a 15 year old son. He said he wanted to escape the drug scene but he couldn't as his family are involved in it. I heard from someone that his children are now dealers. Matty seems quite a powerful man in one world, which contrasts his current situation.

Matty gets irritated with people turning up to the day centre drunk or on drugs. He seems to know about everyone in there. He points out who is high, who is drunk and he points out a young girl. She is pregnant and a prostitute. He says she is always pregnant and she still drinks and takes drugs. He gets really upset for her unborn child and her children.

“In life good and evil are together. Everybody lies. Everyone is too soft. I won’t say I’m sorry if I’m not. A man is a coward if he hits a woman. People all make mistakes, but they don’t learn. Make mistakes, don’t learn, make mistakes, don’t learn. I have hands in everything, but I’m a nice guy. Drugs, it’ll never stop – there is too much money. Money was my drug. I am a loyal person, but I do have two phones (smiles). I know too much. My head doesn’t stop. I never really sleep. I’m always looking at the door. I had the lot, house, car, jewellery, 2 gold teeth and I lost it all in one go. You can loose everything in a day. But, my mum told me, there is always people worse off.”

In the threat of contradiction Matty seems to be a man of strong morals. A man who I photographed the previous day comes over. He is a convicted pedophile and Matty does not like him. The man goes right into Matty's face and says, "look at you, you think because you have money, a car and women you are better than everyone else, look at you." I watch as Matty's face changes, his eye are locked and he is getting angry. He has pulled his shoulders back and he is fighting with himself not to react. I see in him a man who can be very scary.

Obviously trying to provoke him the man is told to move away. Matty is agitated and mumbling to himself, he has made a fist. I tell him not to react and that it's just a sign of jealousy. Matty threatens that something will happen to that man one day.

I ignore that.

Once I left I was told that there was someone in the room who would do any favours Matty asked as he still has a lot of control over the drug scene.

It's strange to hear, but he really is a lovely guy.

Only later do I realise he is the man I see every week sitting in the car on the soup run.

It turns out he is not a pimp, but looks out for the street workers.

I realise my company is somewhat dangerous and controversial but I will never forget the stories I heard and the people I met that day.

28) Meeting with Lawrence

On Wednesday I showed Lawrence my photographs for some feedback. It was really interesting to see how someone 'who knows about photography' interpreted the images. I printed each photograph on A4 and printed the individual's stories and words to go with each image.

Lawrence seemed to like the photographs but what was interesting was the relationship he quickly identified between the images and their text. In each case he pulled out significant words that directly related to the image of the hands. It is amazing how obvious it was to a fresh pair of eyes.

Tower block

Follow my faith

Ups and downs

Four years restoring furniture

The words are so powerful against the images, together they almost say more than the paragraphs of text.

At this stage I need to arrange another meeting with the charity to identify the most appropriate direction for the project.

27) Why Hands?

Hands are a form of nonverbal communication.

Body Language accounts for 65% of our communication.

Hands help people connect with an audience.

Hands signify 'begging', regarding homelessness, as well as 'giving a hand'

Hands reflect survival on the streets.

The condition of hands communicate human emotion. eg, bitten nails can signify worry and anxiety. Scars / tatoos / dirty / clean / gloves / gestures / props / touching the face / relationship with objects.

gestures: defensive / aggressive / open / gentle / closed

Time limit - photographing hands is less invasive and people are more willing to participate in the project. Having a deadline means there is a limit on the relationships I can build.

Hands reflect mood / tell a story / leave the rest to the imagination / a snippet of individual identity.

Trying to capture the natural hand position when people are talking helps communicate how they are feeling about what they are saying.

It's all about hands...

26) Cornerstone Day Centre 1

Cornerstone Day Centre

On Tuesday 13th July I went to Cornerstone Day Centre with my leader Soraya to meet people in a more comfortable environment. The day centre offers homeless and lonely people food, drinks, showers, clean clothes and provides many other services.

On arriving, there were people sitting outside smoking, which I liked as it seemed like a relaxed environment and inside the hall was filled with people. I felt quite intimidated, I said to Soraya, “I feel like everyone is looking at me.” She said, “yeah, there is nothing wrong with that.” We got given a cup of tea and spoke to one of the leaders who welcomed us and said there was a few people willing to speak to us, so that was brilliant.

I always find it a little awkward arriving at new places, people often stare at you trying to work out who you are and why you’re there. I can see them thinking, is she homeless? is she staff? When the truth is, I’m neither.

We sat down at a table and took in the surroundings. I liked having my cup of tea, it gave me something to do with my hands. A guy called Neil came over, he was very happy to speak with me and answer my questions. I thought that was really sweet, then found out he was getting a free meal for it. I like that! At Cornerstone it is 50p for a meal, 20p for a sandwich £2 to wash clothes and tea and coffees are free.

I told Neil what I was doing and asked if he wanted to write in my sketch book, he said no because he didn’t like his writing and all he would write is, “I want a drink.” I said no problem I would write.

Neil / 34

Neil is a young man, 34 years old, he lives in a derelict building a mile away with his girlfriend of 5 years. He said his girlfriend had been badly beaten and the hospital didn’t help them. I saw his girlfriend, and she had a very black eye, it was swollen and closed. I find it hard not to stare. I asked Neil if he had any stories from living on the streets. He told me one day he was sitting on the street with his three mates when a man walked past. The man asked him if he was homeless. Neil instantly offended, stood up and gripped the man. Eventually the man went away and came back with £2000 in £20 notes. The men shared the money and took £500 each. Neil was stunned and felt bad for gripping the man. He gave the money to his family and girlfriend’s children. He says now if someone asks if he is homeless he gives them the biggest sob story he can. I like Neil, he is like a cheeky little teenager.

“I drink because I came off the drugs, and I just kinda swapped it. But I havn’t really stopped the drugs. I’m always worried. I’m scared about walking down some streets in case I get hit. It happened before, they take it in turns to hit me. I prefer to stay in town, there are more people about. I just want to be happy.”

Richard / 46

Richard lives in the tower block where Shameless is filmed. You can see his building during the opening credits.

Homeless for 5 and a half years Richard got a flat from the council 3 months ago.

“I’d like to get a job. I’d love to go back to the wagons, I was driving the lorries for 2 and a half years, I went to Holland and Ireland.”

“I learnt to survive on the streets. I’m not daft. I found a nice little door way with a heater above it. Every morning a man would wake me up, he often slipped me a fiver for a coffee. He was alright.”

How have you turned your life around?

“I went to church.

I talked to the vicar.

Ever since I had a talk with the him everything seems to be going my way”

I asked Richard what he thought of the photographs of his hands, he said "aw yeah, they look like proper homeless peoples hands."

He was really sweet in wanting the best for my project. I noticed him staying behind when the day centre closed to help tidy up and put all the chairs away. Bless him.

Alan / 54

Alan spent a year and a half on the streets.

When you look at your hands, what do you see?

"Kind, coolness, helpful”

Alan has done voluntary work for Mustard Tree in the past restoring furniture.

“Everyone has their ups and downs.”

Alan taught me how to bingo.

Steven / 57

Manchester born and bred.

Steven and Alan are old friends who met in a hostel.

“I can see in him a brother.”

Steven volunteered with Mustard Tree for 4 years restoring furniture.

“Life is ok. I’ve got my friends and my family.

I have no blood family, I lost my mum and I lost my dad, I was an only child. I have been at a church for 8 years, and that is my family.

One church, one family.”

Mohammed / 40

Lived in Manchester all his life.

Mohammed has done a lot of labour work in a factory, worked in a warehouse and in a shop.

He has 5 sisters and 2 brothers.

“I never had a dream. Having a baby or marriage is not really a dream of mine. If it happens it happens."

"I like to read. And I try my best to follow my faith, to be a nice person."

How would you describe yourself?

"Mr Softie"

I am happy with my first attempt to collect peoples words and stories. It is quite difficult to find the balance between listening to people who don't know you, and asking to photograph their hands. As soon as you mention you want to photograph peoples hands they move them into an unnatural position.

I have to be pretty quick with the camera, and you only get about 3 seconds to get the one shot. People move and you don't get a second chance so it can be a little hit and miss with the photographs.

Monday, 12 July 2010

25) My Fourth Soup Run

Tonight was really really enjoyable for me.

Soraya, one of the leaders of the soup run is really interested in my project. She is passionate about helping the homeless and sees helping me a way of raising awareness. She knows everyone by name and gets on with everyone on the streets. She recommended going to Cornerstone Day Centre as a more appropriate place to approach people one on one in a comfortable casual environment. She said she would be happy to come with me.

I told her the idea about taking pictures of people’s hands and allowing them to be expressive in their gestures. She loved it, she also said that it might be less invasive that putting a camera in people’s faces.

Because I have been on the soup run a few times now, the leaders are more comfortable with me mingling with people rather than standing behind the tables. When we arrived there was a guy called Timmy, he was straight over to greet us individually. He is a very lively character, giving all the girls hugs and winding up all the men. He seems to have a lot of stories to tell, so you have to humour him, he says he has been in the army, the police, does kick boxing, just back from Iraq on his way to Afganistan, he is from Belfast so he has a gun, purely for self defence, it’s ok though, because it only shoots small rubber bullets.

I hear another man mumble, “you can’t get small rubber bullets”

I said, “I knew a paratrooper once called Luke.” He said, “Oh Luke! Yeah I was his sergeant, How is Luke? Next time you see Luke get me his number.”

He asked how tall I was, I said 5ft 2” he said, “nah I recon 5ft 3” He said it was ok, he would look after me on the streets.

Apparently he is going to get my number next week, because he is a lady’s man.

There is a guy called Eddie who I see every week, he is a cool kinda army guy. I asked Eddie if he would be interested in helping me with my project, I said I was working for Mustard Tree, giving the homeless a voice.

He said, “Wow no no no, that’s not for me. I can’t look out for myself let alone everyone else.” I let it go. He came up to me later and said, “so what’s your project? I explained that I was thinking of making a book with people’s stories or words and maybe taking photographs of peoples hands, because to me hands told personal stories. He said, “Wow, no no mine don’t, you wouldn’t want to take a picture of my hands, I have got a metal plate in one.”

He went on to explain he was in a motorbike accident and he said he had metal in his arm, hand, back, leg and he was in hospital for 3 years. He is currently doing a few courses to get his skills and qualifications in IT, basic labour and others. I asked if is army experience counted for anything, he said no, because the company went bust, therefore he never got any references, so he is building his life from scratch. Eddie is always happy and smiley and seems to have a laugh with the boys.

Sally arrived and she was not in a good mood. She had lost some weed she wanted for the weekend. She had got it on loan, so still had to find the money from somewhere to pay for it.

When people are really irritated, I always seem to find it funny.

She didn’t want to tell me about that side of her, but after she did she calmed down.

She said she had left the sketchbook I gave her at Cornerstone Day Centre. I’ll be surprised to see if it’s there.

The women turned up towards the end looking like they are ready for a night out. One of them makes me nervous. It’s the same girl from the weeks before, this time she had cream boots and a cream coat on, her blond hair was down. She must have been on something. She was loud, laughing and falling about, her face just looks…rough.

I was looking at her when she turned and stared at me. I looked away. I was scared. Her eyes were black.

There was a lovely old man, white hair and a little pull along trolly. He asked if we had any socks. I went to the back of the van and found a few woolly jumpers, he took one, and was thrilled.

We give out lots of things on the soup run, bagels, biscuits, sweets, cake, hot chocolate, ice cream, pasta, salad etc, but what everyone asks for is a plastic bag. We didn’t have any.

As it was time to go all the boys help us clean up. It’s funny, some of the homeless people tell the volunteers what to do. “No that goes on the table, and that goes underneath.”

When I was leaving Timmy briefly mentioned how he had been shot, he showed me two bullet wounds, one on his chest and another on his wrist. All I could say before I left was, “oooooooooo, was it sore?”

He said, “you don’t feel it because of shock,” so that’s reassuring.

When I’m walking around town now I see the familiar faces, it’s quite a unique little community.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

24) The Sanctuary

Wed 7th July – The Sanctuary

I went to the Sanctuary on Wednesday evening, which is a cultural evening for the homeless with live music and craft sessions. There was a good turn out and a lively atmosphere. I made a bracelet with beads. Sally from last week was there, she made a necklace for me which was a lovely gesture. It was interesting talking to her, she has a lot of ambition, skills and the drive to set up her own business but the restrictions of money and space to work limit her success. She said,

“There is nothing pro-active I can do to get out of this situation. It should be illegal for people to have to live like this.”

Sally has a laptop, which is her life! I was talking to her about my project and she wanted to show me images of a photography project she had done on being homeless. She took pictures of images she sees everyday on the street. She was explaining how the bumps in the ground were her life and the tall buildings above were barriers that she cannot cross. She was frustrated saying that she would know more about IT than anybody inside the buildings.

I asked Sally if she would be comfortable writing down her story for my project. She said,

“Yeah, of course, I am homeless and I have loads of homeless friends I can ask too.”

I said I would give her a sketchbook and a pen, she said she didn’t need them she could type it up. I explained I really wanted the personal, hand written feel for my work. She said her handwriting wasn’t the best, but I said that was fine, I didn’t mind mistakes or scribbles. Even if people preferred to draw a picture, anything they did would be interesting.

I gave her the sketchbook and she will return it at the next soup run. I am extremely interested to see what is inside it, even as a research resource, it could be very insightful. I told Sally that she would have to explain to everyone she approached that the work may be published in some way and that they gave permission first. She understood.

There was a man called Teacup, he brought people tea, coffee and food all night.

Jack was there, the guy from Britain’s got Talent, he played the harmonica for everyone, it was really good! I told him I had seen him on youtube, he said someone had raised £100 pounds selling his autograph online, he couldn’t believe it.

I notice a lot of men have served in the army years ago. They still hold that military swagger and sense of humour.

A man and a woman dance to music and kiss.

A woman makes jewellery with our leader Tony. She made a pink necklace, pink earrings and a pink bracelet. Her gestures were somewhat child like.

A man wanted to make something for his round his dog’s neck. His facial expressions were funny, almost judging others who were they as being ‘weird’.

A large man, who had special needs came from Ulster. He told joke after joke. “You can either have money or a wife.” Etc etc

I faked laughed 3 times. Then I gave up.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

23) Manchester Street Photography

On returning from my meeting with Paul Wenham I was quite inspired to get started with my practical work so I walked around Manchester City centre taking photographs. Being homeless is about living on the streets, so i thought it would be a useful exercise to study the streets through photography.

22) Tom Stone Photographer

Danny gave me the link to Tom Stone and I absolutely LOVE his work. I think the black and white headshots are really powerful and looking into peoples eyes is where you find the raw emotion. I think the photographs are stunning and the subjects look beautiful.

tom stone is a documentary photographer known for his portraits of people living along the edges of society. his photography shares perspective with the work of dorothea lange, richard avedon, diane arbus and sebastiĆ£o salgado.

“i photograph people who skirt the edges of things; people whose connection to the broader flow is murky or obscured. mistaken as more, less or different than they are; they aren’t really seen and don’t really belong. that’s everyone sometimes; but some more often. i try to establish a line for a moment. i hope to connect. and i see the most beautiful and the most heartbreaking things.”

- tom stone

homeless kat from marin. kat has a cart and has been rapidly culling the trash cans for recycling. she has a doll around her neck; its arms in a constant embrace.

i find myself staring. she reminds me of someone.

she’s not as drunk as she pretends. and she’s smarter than she lets on. the older boy next to her is just as drunk as he looks. they met earlier over a can of beer.

her name is sadie; from “everywhere.” well, from chico really. but she doesn’t live there anymore. mom kicked her out. says mom’s a “tweaker and a drunk.”

been getting around mostly by hitching. some trains too; but not so much. talks about places she’s been to recently; and places she’s going.

the boy has a big smile on his face. says “ain’t she beautiful!” like he’s still figuring his luck.

“yes,” i respond.

homeless kaylyn from dallas sitting on sidewalk panhandling. she was thrown out of school and out of home when she was 15.

she’d been on her own until last year when, at 17, she got engaged to a boy she met in san diego. they’re living together now in a tent in the park.

he says he tries not to feel like a victim but life and people seem to prey on him.

says it would be best to just start over. but he’s not sure how. says he knows it’s as much him as anything. “my life’s this way because i don’t fix it.”

“...but you could also say it’s god’s mistake. maybe he just made me wrong.”

21) Meeting with Paul Wenham

I had my meeting with Paul Wenham yesterday, the Chief Executive of Mustard Tree. It was really successful in terms of primary research and in defining my brief.

What does Mustard Tree mean?

Mustard Tree comes from the parable of the Mustard Seed told by Jesus in the New Testament in the Bible.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

Matthew 13:31-32

The interpretation is that these large birds were considered outcasts in society. The mustard seed grew as a tall tree with thick branches, strong enough to hold the birds and provide a place of safety and protection. Mustard Tree, as a charity, is for those who feel cut out of society, who are then welcomed to a place where they can feel protected and safe.

How can I support Mustard Tree through communication Design?

As a business we probably need a pdf template that we can constantly update to send to the public and private sector for funding, essentially raising awareness of the charity.


What I am personally more interested in and passionate about is the opportunity to give the homeless a voice. An artefact that includes personal testimonials and records unique stories and unique futures. Focusing on the individuals and not putting everyone under the same stereotype of ‘homeless.’

Something that we could send out to our key partners to show the people we are helping.

What would be the tone of voice?

Awareness and hope.

Do you have any potential budget restrictions?

We wouldn’t normally go for large billboard advertising, but something small that we could send out, like a book, we would have the funding for. We have close connections with Creative Lynx who often do our printing for free and AND Partners are always willing to help us out. However, I wouldn’t want to influence your project in any way.

Would you consider raising awareness of World Homeless Day?

When is that?


Now that is very interesting. I wasn’t aware of that. That could be something worth considering. It could even act as a marketing launch date?

So the brief could be:

Design something that gives the homeless a voice, to raise awareness of World Homeless Day to be sent to Key Partners of Mustard tree to show the individuals the charity supports?


With regards to me talking to the homeless, to hear their stories and possibly taking their photograph, what would be the most appropriate way to approach people?

Anybody in here would be willing to help, but you could also attend the Sanctuary on Wednesday evening, that’s when all the creative people will gather.