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Photos of homeless people go on display at Canterbury's Beaney Museum and Galleries

By Oliver Kemp

Photos of homeless people have gone on display at a gallery in Canterbury in a bid to remind people about the human lives behind rough sleeping statistics.

The Portrait of Homelessness exhibition at The Beaney Museum and Galleries shows images of people from around the county who have experienced living on the streets.

The idea came from photographer Robert Greshoff, who wanted to capture the personalities of those who have had their lives turned upside down by homelessness.

He said: "It’s about showing the joint humanity we all share. Whether you are lucky enough to have a well-paid job in the city or you’re lying around in Canterbury. In essence we are basically the same, and I think that’s the point I want to make."

He approached homelessness charity Porchlight to work with him on the project to ensure he was sensitive about approaching his subjects, he added: "They’re a vulnerable group of people. I didn’t want to take advantage of them."

In the photos the people are wearing clean clothes and smiling in front of a blank white background.

Dean has been homeless on and off for 15 years
Dean has been homeless on and off for 15 years

Dean Hyman, 51, had his photograph taken as part of the exhibition, he has been homeless on and off for the past 15 years.

"It’s a good way to show we’re people" he said.

"We’re people just like everyone else. Anybody can become homeless."

According to Dean, part of the stigma surrounding homelessness is due to the few people who beg on the street.

"You only see homeless beggars, you don’t see homeless. In Canterbury there are 40-50 homeless, you only see five beggars.

"They wear their uniform - dirty clothes. There’s a day centre where you can clean your clothes, they’ve got a washing machine, dryer, showers. There’s no reason to look homeless."

Porchlight hopes the exhibition will make people think differently about homelessness
Porchlight hopes the exhibition will make people think differently about homelessness

Latest statistics by the charity Shelter suggested there are 320,000 people experiencing homelessness throughout the UK and earlier this year it was revealed Canterbury has the fifth highest rate of homeless deaths in England.

There are likely to be many more experiencing hidden homelessness, such as sofa surfing or living in squats.

The street outreach team at Porchlight found 752 people sleeping rough in Kent in the 12 months to the end of March and one of the misconceptions is that they are lacking in skills for employment.

Chris Thomas from Porchlight said: "Businesses assume they don’t have a lot of skills but we work with people from all walks of life and different backgrounds.

"Bankers, people who have worked in the film industry, fashion. Basically there are as many stories behind homelessness as you would find in any other walk of life."

Jonathan was a victimof domestic abuse and end up sleeping on the streets of Ashford
Jonathan was a victimof domestic abuse and end up sleeping on the streets of Ashford

Jonathan Ingham, 58, was a victim of domestic abuse last year and as a result lost his home and resorted to sleeping on the streets of Ashford. He is now in shared housing with the help of Porchlight and things are quite literally looking up for him.

"I’ve recently been employed by Canterbury Cathedral and I’m working with the stone masonry team at the top of the towers, which is brilliant," he said.

"The way I've progressed in the last sixteen months is quite remarkable I think."

The Portrait of Homelessness exhibition runs until Sunday, September 8.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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