New Internationalist

Doorways - stories from the street

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Excluded in life as in death, this is the reality of homelessness. Bekki Perriman documents it from the inside.

I’ve used photography and storytelling to express what life was like on the streets. Each doorway is a place I used to sleep or sell the Big Issue and I wanted to tell the stories of those doorways, as a way of expressing the invisibility and horror of homelessness but also stories of friendship and what everyday street life is like. While the doorways are places I once slept and are the places where these things happened, they also act as a metaphor for the experience of homelessness, being on the outside and literally shut out.

Above: I used to sleep here. It was sheltered and tucked away. I’ve noticed they have now put a massive flower pot in this space to keep the homeless out.

Above: This is the doorway where Andy and I used to sleep. In this doorway we had water thrown on us by the street cleaners. We were spat on, urinated on and threatened so many times. In this doorway we also found friendship, shared a cup of tea and cuddled up together to keep warm. We laughed into the night.

Above: In this doorway a man came and whispered in my ear that he ‘wanted my money’ and showed me a knife he had in his hand. I gave him the few pounds I had made selling the Big Issue absolutely terrified. Attacks like this are so common on the streets it didn’t occur to me to tell the police.

Above: I was sleeping rough in this doorway. An off-duty social worker came and approached me. She promised me she would come back the next day and help me to get some help. The next day I waited over 12 hours desperate for her to return as she had promised. But I never saw her again.

Above: I sold a Big Issue here to Chris Evans.

Above: Andy and I built ourselves a little cardboard house on these steps. It was a child-like house with a cut out window and flap open door. We sat inside our soggy house in the pouring rain. A man who walked past went across the road and bought us a pizza. I remember sitting inside our little cardboard house eating pizza as one of the happiest days on the streets.

Above: In this doorway the police used to always move me on, but they never told me where I could go.

Above: Andy was unconscious on the steps. I was shaking him but he was lifeless and blue. Crowds of people were coming out of the opera and I begged them to call an ambulance. A few people stopped and stared but then continued on their way. I still cannot comprehend how so many people could walk past a 17-year-old boy dying in a doorway.

All photos are the copyright of Bekki Perriman.

Bekki tells personal stories about life on the streets and living with mental distress. She brings attention to these issues in ways which are both political, but also show the human side of difficult experiences that challenge the viewer to think about previous conceptions and stereotypes. Find out more about the Doorways project.

Read Transitional in Britain as part of our photo series on ‘Home’.

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  1. #1 Martin Smith 18 Jun 14

    Now, this is brave. The ups and downs in responses one finds to the telling of their experience with this decadent side of civilization is not a dissimilar trauma to that of the experience, itself. Fortunately, my personal experience was relatively brief yet beset with the hurdles of stigma and straw-charity. At 33, as I was, one can be just as vulnerable to the machinations of a machine that takes no prisoners and spares no lives. A few of the chaps at the long-stay hostel, Hope, which I eventually landed in were Big Issue reps whom, with their no-nonsense approach, were an integral part of my gaining the motivation to correct my own personal dilemna. Many of the problems still recurr in my life though I am better for the education that cost so much.

  2. #2 Jo Moon 17 Aug 14

    thank you for this powerful, moving yet personal and delicate art work. a timely reminder of our responsibilities towards homeless people. Can we see this more of this artist?

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