Dozens of local people who have found themselves homeless have come together to develop a new artistic tapestry centred around their hopes.
The eight foot high art work has now been donated to the Housing Executive in Derry and was unveiled before a packed audience at its Waterloo Place office on Thursday afternoon by Mayor Elisha McCallion and HE Area Manager Avril McAllister.
Those living in temporary housing projects from across the city were present to see their artistic ideas and messages of hope brought together in the 12-panelled work, which was developed with support from local artists Donnie and Joe.
Mark Toner, one of the men from the North West Methodist Mission who have helped create a panel for the new tapestry, said their message of ‘Homeless, Not Hopeless’, which they had woven into their panel, was an important one to get across to people.
Speaking about the project he added: “It was good craic so it was. They gave us spray guns and let us work away. It was good fun.”
Artist Donnie told the Journal: “The theme was hope and we went round all organisations and asked them to come up with ideas that made them connect with the organisations they were in.
“Most of them came up with inspirational quotes and things that were very positive and then they had to put it into a design and I had to take it away and put it into a tapestry then.
“All the ideas were very inspirational and inspiring.”
The idea was created by the Civic Homelessness Forum, which was set up by Derry City Council several years ago to pull together all agencies who were dealing with homelessness locally.
Sandra Duffy, a member of the Civic Homelessness Forum and Floating Support Co-Ordinator with First Housing, said the tapestry would help to prevent the stigmatisation of people who find themselves without homes.
“We came together a number of years ago to promote the positive things around homelessness in Derry and the work of the agencies in Derry and how we can address homelessness in conjunction with the HE, who is our main funder.
“Housing Executive in Derry play a leading role in addressing and combating homelessness and they have a section that fund the majority of projects that address homelessness in this city.
“We require the HE to continue in the way that they are doing it. We work really closely with the HE in terms of getting people into supported accommodation, addressing their housing needs and looking at what other options are available for them and to try and get them permanently rehoused to finally address their homelessness issue.
“This event is about moving away from those old stereotypes. There is a lot of positive work happening in the city to ensure that we don’t have rough sleepers. We are here to say that help is available, we can help people and we want to raise public awareness around that.”
Avril McAllister said the quality of the new art work was amazing.
She added that the problem of homelessness was not one was going away.
“The complexities of the problems that people have when they come to us are really getting more and more extreme now,” she added.
“Our vision is that we can eliminate long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough across all of our towns and cities by 2020.
“We will continue to work with our partners to promote better outcomes and ensure that homeless individuals should not be stigmatised.”
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane Council, Elisha McCallion, announced that Derry’s lauded Civic Homelessness Forum will soon be re-convened for the Derry and Strabane area under the new supercouncil. She added that Belfast was now looking at replicating Derry’s pioneering forum.
“The work we do here in the city and indeed the district is streets above everywhere else,” she said.
She added: “This is a fantastic initiative aimed at creating better awareness of the issues around homelessness by providing people experiencing homelessness with a forum to express their hopes and dreams in a creative and innovative way.
“I am fully supportive of this initiative and of the great work being done by the Civic Homelessness Forum in partnership with support agencies to create a better understanding of the issues around homelessness.”