My London – Reflections from the homeless

First published on https://spotlight.kcl.ac.uk/2017/03/10/my-london-reflections-from-the-homeless/ on 10 March 2017.

Students from The Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s have put their studies into perspective and considered the role they may play in society by curating a special exhibition featuring images taken by people affected by homelessness.

Housed within the university’s Somerset House East Wing and open to visitors until September 2017, MyLondon is an ongoing collaboration between the Law School and the charity Cafe Art, which aims to give people affected by homelessness a creative outlet in an exchange that is predicated on a productive engagement with society.

“A lot of these photos show that homeless people are essentially excluded from the legal system,” said, Martin Wagner, a first year LLB student & a member of the exhibition team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to a recent government study, rough sleeping has gone up by 37% in London since 2010. The student curators of the exhibition have used the experience to develop interpretations that explore the various ways photography, the urban environment and law might be able to aid our understanding of homelessness and the issue’s visibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Symbolic of what we are trying to do with the project – connecting people affected by homelessness with the wider community through art and photography. These connections help everyone: the photographers gain experience and self-esteem and the community learns more about the issue of homelessness.” Paul Ryan, Café Art Director

Over the last four years, Cafe Art has held a photography competition for their affiliates, providing a photography class and disposable cameras before sending competitors off into London to take their shots. Selected photographs comprise the MyLondon calendars that are sold to raise money for Cafe Art’s work.

For more information about studying Law at King’s College London, please visit the school’s information page. The London Office thanks the Dickson Poon School of Law, Cafe Art and the MyLondon project team for this article.

Images: Banksy’s Dalmatian by Saffron Said, Now What by Laz Ozerdan, Peeking Out by Jackie Cook and Watching Mannequins by Keith Norris.

KCL Hot Chocolate Society

The King’s College London Hot Chocolate Society is a non profit initiative founded by students to extend a helping hand to the homeless community in London, providing essential care and support to the most vulnerable in our local areas. 

KCL Hot Choc Soc

Their work and activity ranges from hosting outreach sessions, approaching rough sleepers with hot drinks, warm clothing, and whatever is requested and is within their means to provide as a means of starting a conversation to hear their stories, to fundraising for positive causes and giving the homeless a voice through their media campaigns.

Since the start of the academic year, the society’s committee have held outreach sessions, with team leaders managing each session, supporting and supervising the other volunteers. Working closely with our local boroughs, they go out primarily in Central London, speaking to homeless people and working with locally based organisations, such as St. John’s Church, Waterloo.

“Homelessness can happen to anyone, and too often, rough sleepers face prejudice and unwarranted stigma. If you’ve ever walked past a rough sleeper and pondered over their situation, I would urge you to take an evening off and give our outreach sessions a try!” – Wei Heng Teo

Throughout the month of March, the Hot Choc Soc are hosting outreach sessions, and they also held a “Hope not Hopeless” Panel discussion as part of this outreach on the 6th March with speakers from London-based charities such as Crisis, Connections at St-Martins, Groundswell, and community funded non-profit movements such as Off The Streets London and Breakfast in a Bag.

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“I think the Hot Chocolate Society matters because university can often seem like an awful lot of privilege, and not much awareness of that fact. I think it matters because by humanising the people in our society whom are simultaneously the most forgotten and most visible, it humanises society as a whole. It matters because we all benefit; that we or they give opinions, tell stories and get problems off our chests, until there’s not a us and them – just people sat on some concrete in the evening talking. Because we’re all people. The hot chocolate is just the conversation starter.”
– Matt Williams

Another highlight of this academic year has been ‘Project Santa’, the society’s annual Christmas drive. Held in KCLSU locations on both the Strand and Guy’s campuses, they collected clothes, toiletries, sanitary products and created care packages to distribute to the homeless, ensuring that they had the essentials for the Christmas period.

“Rough sleepers have the same needs as the rest of the people. We all need someone to talk to about our day and our dreams. Even a smile can change someone’s day.” – Katerina Ageridou 

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If you would like to get involved with the KCL Hot Choc Society, you can join through the KCLSU website or keep up to date with their current projects through Facebook, Twitter and their main website.