World's First Museum Of Homelessness opened in LondonTop Stories

May 25, 2024 09:19
World's First Museum Of Homelessness opened in London

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London's recently opened Museum of Homelessness illustrates the harsh reality that homelessness can happen to anyone. The inaugural exhibit, 'How to Survive The Apocalypse,' features stories of people who experienced homelessness. One of these individuals was an ex-finance worker who lived a comfortable life in Japan before finding himself homeless on the cold streets of London. He had battled cancer and was left wearing donated clothes to keep warm. One winter, he wore a fleece that had the name of his former employer on it, but he didn't express any bitterness towards them. The museum was founded as a roving exhibit ten years ago but has now settled into its first permanent location in an Edwardian groundsman's lodge on the edge of North London's Finsbury Park. The museum's opening comes at a crucial time, as recent data shows that in 2022, 290,000 households in the UK sought help for homelessness, and the number of people living in temporary accommodation has doubled over the past decade.

In the same year, there was a 26% increase in rough sleeping in Britain's streets. The cost of living crisis has only added to the problem, with rents rising faster than the core inflation. This has resulted in a sharp rise in homelessness, with a 16% increase in the number of people being made homeless in the last three months of 2023 across the country. The people whose stories are told in this museum are often misunderstood and overlooked, but their numbers are growing every year. This museum offers a unique experience that combines storytelling, education, and advocacy focused on the experiences of homeless people. Unlike traditional museums that display items in glass cases, this museum has an interactive setup where volunteers share the stories behind the objects in its collection. All of these items have been donated by their homeless former owners, and the volunteers share their exact words with small groups of visitors. This museum not only provides a powerful and humane insight into the experiences of homeless people but also challenges the conventional ideas of what museums should display, with its collection including everyday objects such as shopping carts and plastic bags.

The museum's inaugural exhibit is composed of humble objects that possess deep significance. Each item has a narrator who shares its remarkable story. Take, for instance, a crude wooden staff with a duct tape handle. It was initially seized as a makeshift crutch by a homeless man suffering from chronic back pain who had left his actual crutches on the bus. The man stumbled to the sidewalk, unable to walk properly, until he stumbled upon a discarded piece of copied wood in a front yard. To his surprise, the rounded end of the stick fit his hand perfectly, and the staff quickly became his constant companion. He even decorated its vaguely head-shaped handle with a glass eye, a nod to his favorite novel The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. This seemingly insignificant piece of wood transformed from a useless object into a tool and friend, demonstrating the intricate associations that challenge the common perception of the homeless as lost and hopeless.

Although the stories of homeless people as survivors may uplift visitors, the museum's inaugural exhibit also has a disquieting quality. Perched on the brink of the precarious lives of many Londoners, the museum's staff see the homeless individuals whose stories they share as models for a future where more people may face similar struggles. The museum dubs this possible future a state of perma-crisis or a kind of apocalypse. Under these conditions, the practices that help homeless people survive, such as resilience, mutual support, and community, may become even more crucial. Adam Hemmings, the museum's Operations & Production Manager, explains that they aim to challenge the common portrayal of homelessness as a pitiable situation. Instead, they want to highlight the wisdom and resourcefulness of homeless individuals. In fact, when the apocalypse does arrive, it may be those affected by homelessness who hold many of the answers.

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Museum Of Homelessness  London