Through the International People’s Project (IPP), I had the opportunity to hear a voice that is otherwise rarely heard. Those of homeless people. We were a group of 27 participants, from 13 different countries, who were able to experience this special experience in Leeds, England at a two-week camp thanks to our partner organisation St Anne’s Community Services. We learned about the build-up of this initiative and the people behind the projects. Our main task was mainly to help clients eat with them, have conversations and get to know them.
This experience taught us that you can end up on the street for various reasons, often structurally conditioned. Being homeless is rarely a decision. These people have lost all hope to a functioning civilian system. One man, 30, homeless and alcoholic, says to us: “Don’t condemn and you won’t be convicted, there are always reasons.”
Listening to these people, talking to them, getting to know them, not judging them, was the most valuable experience we have had to experience in this project. We have realized that listening is the first important step. Often decisions are made for these people and (pre-) judgments about them without being given the opportunity to share their opinions. Often we heard that anyone can become homeless. During our time at this partner organization, we met homeless people from very different backgrounds.
With this IPP, we were able to make a small change in this local community with little time, and we ourselves learned a large amount during these two weeks.