Home Is Where My Heart Is

Posted by editor 23/01/2014 0 Comment 4680 views
Home Is Where My Heart Is

By Vaughan mentored by Danielle Fusco

Home Is Where My Heart Is is a simple concept really: A photography-come-calendar project for homeless young people aged between 12 and 25 years of age. It’s run by the Perth based YACWA (Youth Affairs Council for Western Australia) with the sales from the calendar helping to fund its next year’s activities.

YAWCA CEO Craig Comrie explains how it got started: “We wanted to run an easily accessible project that brought youth homelessness to the public’s attention. It allows the young people a voice through visual art without actually saying anything verbally.”

“What does home mean to you?” was the key question here and participants are able to respond to the question however they wished. Primarily the purpose is to tell a story through photography (see pic above), to give participants a chance to look back, to see where they’ve been and how they’ve progressed. “It can be painful to look at the past, and if they want to paint a better future so this can also be used to look forwards,” adds Comrie.

Unlike other YACWA projects, Home Is Where The Heart Is hasn’t got a budget, but has been going strong since 2008. “We rely on local businesses and the general public for donations,” says the enthusiastic CEO, “plus the income generated from the sales of the artwork that we exhibit of the photography project.”

Just over 600 people attended the last photography exhibition in August 2013, a reflection of the fact that homelessness is high on Australia ‘s list of social issues priorities. A report released in December 2013 by the Institute Of Health And Welfare, shows that 244,000 Australians used homelessness services in the past financial year, highlighting a three per cent rise in one year.  

YACWA project coordinator Jo Banks, 31, has herself had an experience of what she calls primary homelessness: “I was couch surfing for 6 months within my final semester at university. This is why I am so passionate about the issue. Many of the young people that we work with suffer homelessness because of family conflicts, drug- or alcohol-related issues and not having a stable income.”

Over coffee, Banks explains that many young people have an issue with casual employment resulting in housing problems. Within such jobs, employees are not eligible for benefits such as sick leave or holiday pay:  “Within these contracts legally employers can give employees just two hours’ notice. It’s hard to get a rental property when a person is working casually because they can’t show a stable income.”

Home Is Where My Heart Is engages ten young people per year on average. They receive referrals from other youth-based services, drop-ins, and shelters for the homeless. Banks feels that they are contributing in some part to solving the problems faced by these homeless or vulnerably housed individuals by helping participants to build confidence through the creative process.

Each client receives a photography mentor to assist them along their journey and time at the project: “We have certain expectations of participants such as time keeping and meeting deadlines. The project helps participants to develop employability skills. I worked with a young woman who had been clean from drugs for a few months. She wasn’t working at the time so this gave her some development goals and helped to build up her self-esteem.”

And with the last Australian Census in 2011 reporting homelessness increases, this is at least one positive step towards solving the housing and homelessness crisis that Australians are facing.



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