Art and homelessness

by Sarah Halsey and Chris Bardo, our Art tutor
At Providence Row we provide art group sessions as part of a wider learning programme of activities. This is part of our Recovery and Progression service, which includes a number of other activities including employment workshops, cycle club, I.T and gardening group, mindfulness and music group and a peer support group to promote recovery from drugs and alcohol. These programmes run alongside our other services which include Trainee Schemes and Advice and Support for housing and benefit issues.

So what does involvement in our art group do for homeless people? For some people, it is the first time they’ve produced art, whilst for others it is a familiar experience. Either way seeing your work take form can be an extremely therapeutic, rewarding and meaningful experience for our clients.   
The practicalities of making art in this context also has many benefits. Meaningful relationships are built as space, resources and equipment are shared and discussions about the art and its ideas take place. Practical skills are grown too: computer, literacy and language skills can be developed whilst researching and developing ideas online. 
These sessions support clients to not only increase and share their skills and knowledge but also helps improve their health and wellbeing and reduce isolation and social exclusion by widening their social networks. They make friends. They have a laugh. It’s often a very welcome respite from the trauma and hardship of rough sleeping on London’s streets.
For many of our clients, the opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships, while taking part in an activity they enjoy, has a hugely positive impact on their lives. This can be particularly important for people who are trying to make positive changes in their lives, such as moving away from drug or alcohol use, which may mean that they need to form a new circle of friends.
We also work with partner organisations and community volunteers to runs sessions in film making and editing and painting. Meeting and working with tutors from outside Providence Row gives our clients the opportunity to learn new skills and share their existing knowledge and experience. It also helps to make people aware of the opportunities available to them outside of Providence Row and to think about opportunities for progression.
By joining these activities at our centre they are also, importantly, accessing vital advice around housing and benefits from their keyworkers at Providence Row as well as specialist structured support from our mental health and substance misuse workers; all in the same location. 
But when faced with the question of whether art classes are for our homeless clients we think it’s best to ask the artists themselves. We put the question to our art group and here’s what they said:
“Attending the art group is a good way to distract you from your housing problem or hostel placement, at least for a little while.” 
“Long term you are improving your artistic ability which could lead to interest from investors.” 
“Opportunities to get work shown from time to time. Trips! Visits to galleries to see other work. On going/starting projects. Sharing what we learn with one another. Learning computer skills and photoshop.” 
  • Artwork produced by our clients will be displayed at our Dellow Nights summer event. Sign up to our newsletter to ensure you get updates about our campaigns and events.