Revealing photo project shows reality of homelessness for youth in downtown Edmonton

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Photo project shows reality of homelessness for youth in downtown Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: Emily Mertz tells us about a collection of photos that show the day-to-day lives of homeless youth living in Edmonton's core from their own perspective – Mar 6, 2018

Voices From The Street is a collection of photos that show the day-to-day lives of homeless youth living in Edmonton’s core from their own perspective.

“I was doing some work with Boyle Street,” organizer Cynthia Puddu explained. “They started to voice some concerns with the redevelopment that was happening. I started the work right around when construction [of the new arena] was happening.

“I was really interested in how the redevelopment might be affecting the youth specifically.”

Puddu, an assistant professor at MacEwan University (and PhD candidate at the University of Alberta’s school of public health), worked with Boyle Street Community Services and the PLACE Research Lab on the photo project.

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READ MORE: Residents worried Edmonton’s new arena doesn’t support inner city enough 

During the summer of 2016, they gave several youths cameras for about a month-and-a-half and asked them to document their lives. Then, they chose their most significant photos and talked about what they depicted. The technique is called “photo voice.”

“The important thing for me is we’re seeing their lives from their perspective, from their viewpoint, from the photography,” Puddu said.

“But also, we’re understanding about their lives through the conversations that we had.”

READ MORE: City works to ensure Rogers Place doesn’t force out homeless 

Those interviews — direct quotes from the young photographers — are included in the pages of Voices From The Street.

“I love expressive learning and how it was a-day-in-the-life, basically,” Vicki Moses, 23, said.

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Moses was one of the photographers who took part in the project. She struggled with homelessness on and off since she was 20. She is currently housed but embraced the opportunity to shed light on life on the streets two summers ago.

“Frame of mind is really what I’m actually trying to change,” Moses said. “A lot of people have their opinion about people being homeless and people on the streets and people who do drugs and people who live at Hope Mission or go to Boyle, and I think a lot of those perceptions are wrong.”

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Voices From The Street by Anonymous TdomnV9OD4 on Scribd

One of Moses’ featured photographs was a shot that includes Rogers Place on one side and a group of homeless people on the other — separated by a city street.

“It was really captivating,” she said. “The beautiful sunset with the Rogers on one place and it’s literally like this road is a divide… What I had said as white privilege, you know, and then homelessness, MacDonald Lofts, Boyle Street.

READ MORE: Downtown Edmonton MacDonald Lofts to become property of Ice District

Moses believes Edmonton’s most vulnerable populations are being overlooked as all this development happens around the new arena.

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“They’re definitely being pushed out of the area,” Moses said. “The Katz Group had said they wouldn’t affect the downtown population and I’m not too sure which population they were referring to, but it seemed like they were not referring to the homeless community,” she said.

“They bought out the YMCA building over here and the MacDonald Lofts… and then they wanted to buy out Boyle as well but Boyle had the opportunity to buy that land first.”

READ MORE: What impact will Rogers Place have on Edmonton’s vulnerable? 

The 23-year-old feels Voices From The Streets has given a voice to those who may not normally have a platform of any kind. She hopes this isn’t the last time the project aims a spotlight on these issues.

“I definitely think this brought awareness to not only people in the community but it also brought awareness to myself.

“A lot of the youth that participated in this — I didn’t really know and so it was interesting to see their pictures and how they perceive the world too.”

READ MORE: Downtown arena policing plan keeps Edmonton chief up at night 

Puddu hopes many more Edmontonians are able to learn something from the project as well.

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“It was really stories of some of the difficulties but also a lot of the resilience and the hopes and dreams they have. That was a really great thing to see,” she said.

“It wasn’t just always hardship — because that’s often what we think about — there’s a lot of strength and resilience in this population as well.”



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