One of the things we do at Urban Seed is run city walks where talk about homelessness and the work Urban Seed does. Something we often get asked is, “are we going to ‘see’ homeless people?” This is always an interesting question.
Firstly how do we know what a homeless person looks like? Secondly if you could always tell what they looked like, would it be a good idea to go and look for them?
We also regularly get requests to hear from people who are homeless themselves and have them share their stories in person on our walks, which sometimes does happen.
For us this is really tricky territory to navigate.
The power of story to us at Urban Seed is core to who we are. We believe that we can learn more from a story than from facts & figures. This is because when we hear a story we engage with it and it moves us emotionally. Hearing a story about someone’s life from the person themselves is truly powerfully. It has the ability to allow us to get to know the person and understand complex issues more. Therefore helping to breakdown stereotyping and judging.
But having said that we also need to be careful how we honour and tell those stories. Because of the impact and power in a story we need to be careful that we don’t just ‘use’ the person so as to tell a good story.
For us at Urban Seed we exist to honour and be with those have been marginalised and ignored from wider society. Part of this means we get to hear stories about people lives that are sad, powerful, moving and beautiful. Graciously many of these people are willing to have their stories shared by us on a walk. And sometimes they are happy to be there to share their stories in person. We tread a fine line between allowing those who want to share their story a space to do so, and exploitation of that person for the sake of a good story. At Urban Seed we want to honour and repsect the most vulnerable first.
And so it is for this reason, that more often than not, we do not always have homeless people come on our walks or there to share their own stories. Rather we advocate on their behalf.