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.


  1. Hi Nicola,

    This is a great blog and I have enjoyed reading through your posts about your work with homeless people. What I would be interested to read about though is how you are putting together what you are learning about homelessness with what you are learning about communication design. Where is this all heading to?


  2. Nicola,

    Thanks for this blog.
    It's incredible how you manage to talk about such a complex topic in such a simple, fluid way.
    It's really fascinating reading about what you are doing. What a noble project.
    I am not sure if you know about the project
    It might be interesting to have a look at it.
    Keep blogging. I'm certainly going to come back.
    Thank you for letting us into your world! ;-)

  3. Dear Irish,

    Your blog rules. Write more.


  4. Hi Gareth!

    Thank you for your comment.

    I often ask myself the same question, where is this going? Well, at the moment it is going to be a book of individual's unique stories. It is to raise awareness of homelessness using the voice of the people on the streets and it will hopefully be sent out to Mustard Tree Charity's key partners. The tone of voice is one of hope and awareness.

    I am using photography and text together to communicate the message.

    So far this has been the research side of things, the practical design work is just beginning. I am currently making all the decisions as to the most effective way to communicate the message, and considering how the message will be received by different people.

    As I start to post the design and photography work you will hopefully see the process develop. As of yet I do not know how the final outcome will look, the project is leading itself and always changing direction.


    Nicky :)

  5. Hi Cristina!

    Thank you for all your kind words, Im glad you're enjoying the blog as much as I am writing it!

    This is my first blog, so I'm learning all the time.

    I had not heard of the project. That's amazing! Thank you very much for the reference. It is interesting to see another person's approach to the issue. The footage is an excellent resource, however I don't know how comfortable I would feel filming people.

    There are pros and cons to every approach. As a body of work however, the videos are very interesting!

    I have a couple more posts on the way as I have met many more interesting people, so keep reading! :)

    Thanks again, loving the feedback!


  6. Nicky,

    Well I am very envious of your progress with using images. It's something that I would have liked to adopt on my own blog but for many reasons just haven't been able to crack yet. This is partly because I didn't want to perpetuate stereotypes of homeless people or to represent them as objects of pity or sympathy - my conversations with them have supported this belief I think. But how to represent homelessness in any other way? I've no ideas as yet! I'll look forward to seeing your work, and to reading about the unique stories that you aim to represent.


  7. Hi Gareth,

    Yeah I know what you mean, it is a very difficult topic to approach. I have certainly set myself a challenge and maybe limited my design options due to subject, however, I find this all the more interesting.

    I'm making myself think with regards to communication design and getting the tone of voice and key message correct is something I am very passionate about.

    When taking the photographs some people have been really into it and enjoyed expressing themselves. I always ask, "what do you think this photograph says about you?" It's interesting listening to their response, as they reflect upon themselves and the image.

    You are correct however, some do not want their photograph taken and that is totally respectable.