Dean O'Brien's Blog

Under-represented group within the media: My first experience with Coventry’s homeless…

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After speaking to Kervin Julien a few weeks prior to this I managed to get out amongst the homeless in the city.  Kervin gave everyone an introduction to me.  He explained that I was a photographer from Coventry University and would be spending the next few months coming out and and mixing with them.   This first outing was not going to involve any photography.  It was going to be about researching what happens down here on a Sunday.  This is going to be an ongoing project over a period of months and there is no rush.  I want to produce a body of work which shows what is happening out here.  I cant do that unless I am in touch with who and what I am photographing.

Many of those who help out with this project are members of Northpoint Chuch in Bell Green, Coventry.  They offer free help and advice to those who need it most.  Sometimes it might just be a sandwich and a chat.  Whilst some of the homeless will be glad of a chat others may go off and sit on their own, preferring to keep their problems to themselves.

The food table used to be set up outside the British Transport Museum in town.  A nice central gathering place in town for a sandwich and a hot drink on a Sunday.  However, this soon started to cramp the style of Coventry City Council and they were encouraged to move on.  They now set up under the flyover close to Norton House.  Every cloud has a silver lining and Kervin was quick to point out that at least people are sheltered under the flyover when it rains.

Kervin mentors and tries to help each person.  But he is no push over.  He tells them that once they start to help themselves thats when other hands will come out to reach.  He does stress though that they have to want to help themselves first.  He was at rock bottom himself and pulled himself back up.  This is proof that it can be done.  The church is also a big guiding hand in this project.  Their belief in God pushes these people to continue with this work on the streets.  I’m looking forward to the next few months and seeing where this journey takes me.

Was this what I expected?….Mmmm..I’m still thinking about that one.  Its tough to watch and quite tough to deal with mentally as well.  Being homeless is not a simple situation.  Everyone is homeless for different reasons.  Some have mental health issues whilst some battle with drug and alcohol abuse.  Others have just fallen on bad luck.  Im not here to judge.  I want to offer help in whatever way I can.  Through my images I hope to help in some way….Watch this space for more updates


Written by Dean O'Brien

April 18, 2010 at 8:15 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Dean

    I feel this is always a difficult situation to deal with. In theory, no one in Britain should be homeless on the streets, In other words there is a place for then to stay always ( I believe if you look at government literature you will find that is the case ). In reality as you are finding out that that is not the case ie they have made a concious decision to sleep rough. That may be because of mental issues etc.

    Image is OK but to make this work you have to move in close. It has taken me two years to get the people I am working with comfortable with me sticking a camera in there faces. To make this sort of documentary work you have to get in close and personal.



    Rick Medlock

    April 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. As for the image, its not part of the body of work, its just a snapshot to give people a rough idea of what the set-up looks like and to go with the blog post. I have not started to shoot any images properly yet. Appreciate the comment though Rick.

      Dean O'Brien

      April 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm

  2. Interesting you mention their faith in God. As an atheist if I don’t believe in myself, who will?

    Chris Alford

    January 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  3. Oh yee of little faith eh?…. Each to their own Chris but i have seen some amazing things happen to people down there with the guidance of Kervin and Anesis. The hand of God is playing a massive part trust me. I am witnessing it first hand for myself.

    Dean O'Brien

    January 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

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