'You're an outcast': VR film makes Londoners homeless on the streets

by Ruairi Casey | @Ruairi_Casey | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 18:39 GMT

A homeless person sleeps in the doorway of a former branch of Nat West bank in London, Britain December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Image Caption and Rights Information
Homelessness is rising in England, with at least 4,100 people sleeping rough on any given night in 2016, according to the homeless charity Crisis

By Ruairi Casey

LONDON, Dec 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Londoners were moved to tears while watching a virtual reality video in which they were spat on while sleeping rough in a tunnel and stared at by shoppers while begging on a busy street.

The Passage, a London-based homelessness charity, produced the 'Look the Other Way' film installation to try and change people's attitudes towards rough sleepers during Britain's cold winter months, when demand for shelters surges.

"Too often, we walk past people who are on the street without giving them a second thought," Nichola Wilson, a manager at The Passage, which runs a hostel and a day centre for the homeless, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We were surprised by the impact the virtual reality film had. Even Passage staff members who work in this field every day felt overwhelmed once they took the headset off.

Homelessness is rising in England, with at least 4,100 people sleeping rough on any given night in 2016, according to the homeless charity Crisis.

After wearing a headset and a blanket for a few minutes to see life from the perspective of a homeless person, people said they felt vulnerable, rejected, ashamed, sad and isolated.

One man said it was "a horrible feeling - as if society's forgotten all about you".

Geoff Kearns, who has been living on the streets for four years, was the inspiration for the project.

"The general public, they ignore you, because they think you're an outcast," he said in a film released by The Passage.

"If they could see what I saw on the streets, they would be more understanding."

(Reporting by Ruairi Casey @Ruairi_Casey, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.