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The changing face of homelessness

Claire Letitia Reynolds and her son

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The changing face of homelessness

An acclaimed photography exhibition is changing our perception of the ‘sleeping rough’ stereotype. WORDS: Francis Witsenhuysen.

A local photographer is helping to confront the social stigma and judgment around homelessness through her highly sought-after Sunshine Coast exhibition.

Claire Letitia Reynolds’ Changing Perceptions on Homelessness photography exhibition will kick off this month at Maroochydore and it could not be better timed.

With more than 13,000 people sleeping rough in rural and regional Queensland on any given night, the stigma surrounding homelessness is ever-present.

The exhibition will feature 20 portraits of people on the Sunshine Coast, aged from two to 70, who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness.

“Since the pandemic, homelessness has become more prolific due to the housing crisis, not just on the Sunshine Coast, but nationally,” Ms Reynolds says.

“It’s a topic that a lot of people are now close to home to. It’s a very relevant exhibition.

“(It’s) a broad cross-section of subjects because a lot of homelessness is the people you can’t see – it’s not just people on the street. It’s people sleeping in their cars and living-room floors.

“There are obvious rough sleepers in the exhibition, but there are also other people in there you would never really think — if you looked at the person — they were homeless.”

The show was first held in August 2020 and has since gained popularity around South-East Queensland – with the upcoming show set to be the fourth re-showing of the original exhibition.

Nambour Community Centre’s Ana Greenfield says the organisation commissioned Ms Reynolds to take the original photographs to help raise awareness of the issue.

Ms Greenfield says that in one week, up to 20 people sleeping rough visit the centre for support, with some being regulars and others seriously looking for accommodation.

The project’s goal is also to open hearts and minds to those who are homeless and to the faces of homelessness in our community.

“People can check out the exhibition and check out what real homelessness looks like,” Ms Greenfield says.

“I think people have an idea of who homeless people are and what they’ve been through but often it might be linked to things like addictions – or it might be a man of a certain age. It’s circumstantial. It’s where people find themselves in life sometimes – and often when there’s women involved, it tends to include domestic and family violence.”

Changing Perceptions on Homelessness will be held at The Maroochydore Library Art Space on Friday, September 23.

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