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We Need to Talk About The Homeless Perception Problem

DePaul UK’s Street Corners ad is the latest in a collective campaign against how people perceive the homeless.

Today’s society has a tendency to disparage the homeless, and it is becoming one of our most divisive, broken, and visibly apparent faults. The way some people’s minds immediately jump to conclusions, diagnosing complete strangers down on their luck with drug problems, alcoholism, and bad judgment is an obstacle in the way of giving aid to those who need it the most.

DePaul UK, a group with the mission of helping the homeless and disadvantaged, started a Street Corners campaign to promote its Nightstop program, in which homeless young people aged 16-25 are matched with a volunteer host.

The posters use perspective to present one side of a story that illustrates typical stereotypes and common reservations when it comes to regarding the homeless. “There’s another side to the story,” the tagline says. Only when the reader turns the corner to read the other half of the poster, does the heartening message come together.

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According to Depaul Nightstop UK’s website, “In 2013 Nightstop provided 11,755 bed nights and volunteer hosts gave over 176,000 hours of their time. A placement can be overnight or up to two weeks and can mark the first step out of homelessness for a young person.”

Publicis London, the agency that conceived the Street Corners campaign, wanted to address the two sides of each homeless person’s story, and also the two sides of the reactions that people have when they encounter the Nighstop program.

Publicis art director Dan Kennard and copywriter Ben Smith told Slate:

When you hear about the Nightstop program, they said, “You think ‘Ah, that’s fantastic,’ but your mind also automatically questions whether it’s dangerous and what the young people involved must be like. But then you hear from people who actually volunteer with the project and you realize your preconceptions are actually way off the mark. Most young people are more scared than the people hosting them, they’re grateful and any problems are very rare indeed.”

One of the agency’s previous campaigns, entitled “Fuck the Poor,” uses the understandably outraged reactions of pedestrians to point out that while people care about the homeless deep down, a message like “Help the Poor” largely goes unnoticed in a crowd.

Movements like these contribute to alleviating some of the hardships that homeless people may face on a day-to-day basis, albeit in their own special way. By tackling the perception problem that derives from the public, affecting the unfortunate—as evidenced by the video in which homeless people are asked to read tweets that generalize folks on the streets—more of our global society may be moved to tap into the larger pool of compassion and understanding, which will be essential in creating a more connected and loving world.

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