Did you know that the ‘average’ person in the UK is only two pay packets away from being homeless? No, me neither.
What’s even more surprising, is the growing number of middle and working-class people suddenly finding themselves out ‘on the streets’ – not cliched victims of some form of abuse, nor necessarily running away from something or someone – these new-age, down-on-their-luck humans are victims claimed by the economic crisis; lost jobs (maybe through redundancy), resulting in lost properties, lost relationships, compounding a potentially life-changing downward spiral.
This bleakly painted picture is not one created by an over-active imagination, our friends at ‘Let’s Feed Brum’ tell us that whilst there are currently around 1100 registered homeless people in greater Birmingham, through their daily work they’d suggest that this number is actually in excess of 2000 – with over 200 people alone, from all walks of life, living rough in the city-centre.
I say ‘our friends’, as if our relationship with this Birmingham based charity is a time-served one – truth is, up until recently (you may relate), my own experience in helping the homeless was limited to a well-rehearsed ‘sorry mate’; my response in most instances, if not, the odd sandwich or pound coin for that ‘cuppa tea’ in emotionally driven moments of guilt and compassion.
I’d like to think as a business, we have. Our quest to properly understand humans – their mind-states, their journeys, interactions and changing emotions – continues to drive our creative ambitions. Across our 2 working studios we talk (and walk) a ‘street-up’ approach throughout our design process – placing ourselves in the shoes of others to truly understand relationship pains and gains and how deeper more emotional connections can be created in a human way.
Probably as everyone else in our industry, it’s that time of year when we consider how best to extend a little festive cheer to clients and associates, in appreciation of their custom and the frictionless working relationship this past fiscal. While thoughts of well-designed gifts (some sweet in taste others rich in alcohol) have all been considered, this Christmas we instead decided to put the associated time and effort into doing something less corporate and arguably more worthy.
Invested in Human Experience
Let’s Feed Brum provide food, drink, essential supplies and friendship to those living on our streets – their call to action; ‘Step up to the plate and help us tackle homelessness’, so that’s what we set out to do.
As well as the longest night of the year, December also marks a chance in season, a time for wrapping up warm, better yet staying indoors to avoid the ‘chill’. More than ever the charity organisation is not only dependent on the donation of surplus food and drink from cafes and restaurants all over the city, but also volunteers; people giving their time to staff soup-kitchens, venture out onto the city streets distributing essential supplies to those that need it, or manning a makeshift charity, clothing store where donated jumpers, hats, coats and blankets are handed out.
While our contribution in the grand scheme of things has been relatively small – for the 25+ of us that gave a couple of hours day and night it was a rewarding experience. Homelessness and rough sleeping is a complex issue, with increasing amounts of people finding themselves on the streets through unfathomable circumstance as much as choice. It requires a community approach, moreover people to get involved in the crucial work that organisations like Let’s Feed Brum do in satisfying the very immediate of; not letting people go hungry, starting conversation to understand their situation and ultimately giving support that might help lead them to experts who can help.
From my own experience it became obvious that for some, it wasn’t just about receiving help, but equally about being treated with the courtesy and respect that every human deserves – a bit of a cliché I know but it became clear that occasionally one kind word was enough to change someone’s whole day. On one of the ‘City walk’ expeditions we stopped to give a guy some hot coffee, a couple of sandwiches, a doughnut ‘for later’ and some cleansing wipes “God bless you” he responded through a genuinely grateful smile, “you guys are amazing – you must have wings tucked under your coats.”
Far from being anything like angels, we – at that exact moment in time – were just a few faces, often too preoccupied with our own lives, that were more than happy to lend a hand!
At the time of writing this Green Room had donated over 60 hours of time, over 120 items of clothing and countless toiletry items.