The Doorways Project is a touring, site-specific sound installation. It explores homeless culture through the personal stories of society’s most silenced people.
Inspired by my experience of life on the streets, the Doorways Project takes a direct and unsentimental approach to investigate the personal, social and political dimensions of homelessness and the role of art in making the invisible present.
Situated across different locations, the installation is a reflection on the spatial experience of life in a city. Through a series of recorded monologues, audiences are invited to intimately engage with the difficult (and mostly ignored) experience of homelessness, and hear first-hand the challenges it presents. It is a unique opportunity to observe a familiar environment from a different perspective.
Link to Doorways Project website: http://bekkiperriman.co.uk/wp/
Background to the work
Rough sleeping is an “absolute form of exclusion” (Mills, 2005) and is a social issue that is widely misunderstood. Public attitude surveys suggest that one of the biggest misconceptions is that people living on the streets are there by choice, assuming that complex issues such as mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, debt or relationship breakdown are the fault of the person concerned, rather than understanding the complexity of these situations.
However, homelessness is rarely a choice and prior to becoming homeless people do everything they can to prevent ending up on the streets. Yet, it has been recognized by those working with homeless people that those sleeping rough for a period of time “acclimatize” to the streets and become part of what Academic Megan Ravenhill calls Homeless culture.
“any serious attempt at resettling long-term rough sleepers needs to consider what it is that the homeless culture offers and whether or how this can be replicated within housed society” (Ravenhill, 2008)
The project is an ambitious attempt to explore the subject of homelessness, in a non-judgemental and honest exploration telling the stories of homeless people, which differs from the ‘deficit model’ where homeless people are portrayed as victims. The project reverses this model by giving homeless people a voice and focusing on the realities of street life through personal experience. The intention behind collecting everyday stories about life on the streets is to humanize a situation that many people often find threatening and uncomfortable, and to challenge the notions of blame and victimisation. The direct voice, apart from asserting its human presence, enables listeners to connect on a personal level and enter the speaker’s world of experience.
Doorways Project Photo Essay
Link to photo essay I wrote based on my own experiences of sleeping rough. I’ve used photography and storytelling to express what life was like on the streets. Each doorway is a place where I used to sleep or sell The Big Issue and I wanted to tell the stories of those doorways as a way of expressing the invisibility and horror of homelessness but also stories of friendship and what everyday street life is like. While the doorways are places I once slept and are the places where these things happened, they also act as a metaphor for the experience of homelessness, being on the outside and literally shut out.
Mills N. (2005). The political construction of homeless identities. British Library Thesis Collection. Available: uk.bl.ethos.414933. Last accessed 7 July 2013.
Ravenhill, M. (2008) The Culture of Homelessness. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited