Countdown to Christmas | December 25th | Sheffield City Centre 2017
All of the photographs in this blog post were taken on Christmas morning 2017.
Today I arrived in the city centre of Sheffield at 8am. Within the space of about an hour I saw at least 20 people who had been out all night. I chatted with some and checked they knew about the HARC Christmas project (see below). Beyond those who I saw I am sure there are many more people in Sheffield waking up this morning to face another day of isolation, uncertainty, loneliness and sadness.
We are constantly told by politicians and men in suits that we are one of the richest nations in the world. What good are those riches if we have lost the ability to care for the most vulnerable in society? I find it hard to make sense of how in 2017 I am able to walk the streets in Sheffield to see so many people struggling. I’ve engaged and worked with people who are homeless for over 20 years and I have never seen homelessness on the streets of Sheffield as bad as it is now. I guess most of us don’t wish to be faced with the grim reality of a growing homelessness problem, particularly at Christmas. However I think these images are a powerful reminder that people on the fringes of our society are now struggling more than ever. I think the photographs speak for themselves. Hopefully they can become part of a bigger conversation about compassion, understanding, homelessness, housing, community, disability, the impact of austerity, diminishing support services, mental health, and what as individuals we can do to reset the direction our society is headed.
How many people consider the story behind the circumstance of a person who has become homeless? How many people define the person as a ‘homeless person’ rather than a person who has become homeless? Most of us prefer to be defined by qualities in our life over which we have some control rather than the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Remembering the person first is important in all our lives. The language used around peoples lives whose circumstances have resulted in them becoming homeless is often unhelpful and dehumanising. The very least any of us can do this Christmas is consider the language we use when talking about the problems faced by people whose circumstance are different from our own. Perhaps a more compassionate choice of language is the first step to understanding the problems and sadness faced by thousands of people all year round.
Seasons greetings and best wishes, Mr C
The full set of ‘Countdown to Christmas’ photographs can be seen HERE
HOMELESS AND ROOTLESS AT CHRISTMAS (HARC) in Sheffield is a day shelter for people who are homeless or isolated at Christmas.
This year it is located at the Archer Project on Campo Lane S12EF. Provided free of charge are hot meals, drinks, company, entertainment and at certain times a dentist, hairdresser, chiropodist, medical services and a clothing store.
9:30 – 7pm – Sunday 24th December to Monday 1st January.
On 1st of January they are only open until 12:00 noon.
Visit the HARC website HERE where you can discover more about the project and also how to donate or get involved.
A nice set of photographs, if a little haunting and humbling. Great work! 🙂
A good set of pictures, a starker Christmas that many would like to own up to. And, (almost) entirely detached from the Christmas imagined reality as I am, there’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas can be a more difficult time for those who are homeless or lonely, or who are in other ways vulnerable. A recent survey of older people saw a significant number looking forward to Christmas being over.
Yes, indeed I think their are many sides to Christmas. For sections of our communities it can be a very lonely isolating time of year. For others it can be when they max out on their credit and look forward to spending the next year paying it all off! Domestic violence increases over the festive period. Homeless people who have more than their fair share of problems all year round are faced with the stark reality of being outside of the festivities they once enjoyed. Christmas is a reflective time of year but it is harder for those who have less or who are marginalised through disability, finance, mental health and age. It must be so hard to see the excess and waste of Christmas when your own life lacks basic essentials for day to day living or even proper care.
The series of images in my ‘Countdown to Christmas’ present a pretty stark view of Christmas but it is a reality for thousands of people all year round. I think they offer a window into a world which shows something of the bigger picture about where we are as a society.
There are no easy solutions to any of the issues faced by people who are homeless. The the only thing for sure is that by ignoring and failing to address the problems that lead to poverty and inequality things will never change. Homelessness is a sympton of a broken society and perhaps we all have a part to play in piecing it back together.
Thanks for your comments.