Photojournalist Ben Blyth spent a night sleeping rough, speaking to street homeless people in Cardiff to hear their stories and to find out how they would like to be treated by the public.
Ben talks to us about the process of putting the film. First, if you haven’t seen it …
Here’s what Ben had to say about putting the film together:
“My interest in homelessness has been one that started back in 2014, when I started a project photographing Cardiff’s homeless and attaching quotes to the images from the people in them. However, after another year of studying since, I have realised that I didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg. So when I was given the opportunity to create a film for one of my final year assignments, I felt that this was the chance to revisit the subject and try to cover it in a way that offers a fairer view on homelessness in Cardiff.
“I began creating this film in October, and had decided that to not go into the subject completely blind so spent two days and a night sleeping rough and begging on the streets of Cardiff. I had originally planned to spend two nights sleeping rough, but to be quite honest, at the time I couldn’t bring myself to do another night. This is partly down to being woken up multiple times in the night by drunk people and then in the early hours, the police woke me to see what was going on. This however was a minor part of the experience, I felt completely lost in a city that I had lived in for two years, a feeling that is very hard to explain, but when there is literally nothing to do or no where to go, its a very confusing feeling. During this experience, I realised very quickly that I would never have any idea of what it’s like to be homeless unless it actually happened to me, this is when I started to talk to homeless people in the city, firstly without a camera, just chatting to them and seeing what they thought of the idea of a film. Most liked the idea, and with that I began filming.
“The main aim of the film was to let the people on the street respond directly to comments often seen online directed at homeless people. These came to my attention even more after my experiment and really angered me, especially when most homeless people don’t have the chance to respond for themselves. The outcome of this is the film, A Little Change, Please. The message I received from most of the people I spoke to on the streets was that, they would much prefer someone to sit and talk to them for a few minutes than have a little bit of change thrown at them. Yes, the money and food is important, but what is more important is that they are made to feel like people, this can be so much more important than a couple of coins. From the response so far it seems to have changed quite a few opinions, and I feel this is important. No one individual can stop homelessness, but if everyone makes a little change to the way they see them or treat them then the bigger change has more of a chance of happening.”
Political uncertainties got you down? Why not ‘do a good thing’ and donate towards hot meals for homeless people.
The lovely people at El Paso’s Grill on City Road are running a scheme where you can add £3 on to the price of your food to help fund meals for homeless people: El Paso’s Pay It Forwards.
The number of people sleeping rough in Cardiff has more than doubled in the past few years. Cardiff charity The Wallich reported there were 31 people sleeping rough this April, compared to 12 people per month in 2013.
El Paso’s are currently providing 10-15 meals a night to the homeless. They say there has been a huge response to their project, and all those that have benefited have been very thankful.
They are now reaching out to the wider public to help support them in ensuring everyone has at least one hot meal a day.
Please consider donating to their GoFundMe page, and sharing their campaign on your newsfeeds, and emailing your friends, families and colleagues.
Today, Hana from We Are Cardiff Press talks about what it’s like to be poor at Christmas, and what you can do to help people in your community.
At this time of year, while frenetic consumerism takes hold, we get a pang of guilt.
We see the homeless people scattered around the cold corners of the city, the charity chuggers on Queen Street, the leaflets through your door, and the emotional appeals on TV. We all know that spending £20 on bath bombs is ridiculous, but we do it anyway.
In my day job, I’m a political writer specialising in equality, human rights and poverty. I also grew up in a household that would be classed as ‘in poverty’. I want to try and illustrate why this time of year is particularly hard for people who don’t have enough money to buy food, pay rent, heat their home, and do social things that other people do like buying presents. It’s not ideal to just consider these things once a year, but it’s better than nothing.
Christmas in our house was filled with embarrassment. My mum was embarrassed that she couldn’t give us proper gifts. We were embarrassed that our Christmas decorations were very old, very rubbish donations. We stayed quiet to avoid making our mum feel bad. We were never homeless, but we got very close.
My brother and I knew that we couldn’t have Christmas lists or any kind of requests for presents. We knew that we ‘weren’t as lucky’ as other kids. Anything we received on Christmas day was greeted with a childish joy alongside an uncomfortable understanding – how was it paid for? What would we do without next month? We got into even further debt in winter, and relied on the help of family friends to eat warm dinners and to replace worn-out school clothes.
Going back to school in January was something to absolutely dread. New clothes, bikes, and holidays in particular, were all things we couldn’t compete with. I usually feigned an illness straight after the Christmas break to avoid having to go through the comparison game.
Our family was on a knife edge throughout December, emotionally and financially; the end of Christmas was a relief.
This isn’t an unusual or extreme example.
Nearly a quarter of people in Wales (23%) live in poverty.One third of children in Wales live in poverty. It’s particularly high for lone parents (most are women), disabled people and ethnic minorities.
‘Not having enough money to get by’ is something that becomes much more pronounced at Christmas.
Below I’ve given a crude, and likely not comprehensive round-up of the charity campaigns that I’ve spotted that are running this Christmas in Cardiff for people who are in that 23%. If you know of any more, leave a comment.
The Huggard Centre is a Cardiff-based charity tackling homelessness. Services focus around the day centre that open 365 days of the year, a 20 bed hostel with additional emergency spaces, 14 shared houses with tenant support that accommodate 52 clients. In extreme weather conditions they also open the day centre at night, to provide shelter for people who would otherwise be forced to sleep rough. You can help them by donating money, clothes or your time by volunteering in their kitchen.
Oasis Cardiff is a centre for asylum seekers and refugees. They offer classes, employability workshops, dance classes, a women’s only area, mother and toddler groups and support with letters and phone calls regarding asylum and refugee issues. You can help them out by donating clothes – they post requests on their Twitter feed.
TheBevan Foundation is an important political voice for people in poverty in Wales. They influence politicians and decision makers by producing excellent research and policy proposals. You can become a member of the Foundation for £36 a year.
Llamau provide safe places for hundreds of vulnerable young people, women and children in Wales. They need donations of gifts or items to make up a gift for the hundreds of people they will support this Christmas, who without help would not receive anything. Why not make the most of 3 for 2 offers and donate your free item? If you shop online, sign up for Giveasyoulive and choose to support Llamau. Every time you shop online, the retailer will make a donation to us, at no extra cost to you. If you’re shopping online anyway, sign up and help unlock donations towards the cause.
The Wallich give vulnerable people the accommodation and support to live safer, happier, more independent lives and to become part of their communities. There has been a 64% increase in rough sleeping in Cardiff over the past two years- the charity’s winter appeal asks you to help bring people in from the cold.
The Salvation Army is running a Christmas present appeal, asking people to donate new unwrapped toys and gifts for children, families, older people and homeless people in need this Christmas.
Cardiff South Debt Centre is run in partnership with The Bay Church and gives free debt help to anyone who feels weighed down by debt. You can find out more about how CAP can help here.
Shelter Cymru helps thousands of people every year who are struggling with bad housing or homelessness, and they campaign to prevent it in the first place. They are an effective campaigning voice for homeless people in Wales. You can make a one-off donation to them to help fund their work.
Safer Wales is an independent charity based in Cardiff. They work to help people feel safer and improve the life of our communities in Wales. They offer support and services to people who are suffering domestic abuse; hate crime or harassment; or who are being forced to do things that they do not wish to do. They also work with young people in the Riverside Warehouse youth centre and in schools across Wales. You can volunteer for them or donate money.
Barnardo’s Cymru run incredibly important service for children in Wales, around fostering and adoption, young carers, sexual exploitation, child poverty and domestic violence. You can help them in loads of ways.
Photographer Ben Blyth’s new project focuses on rough sleepers in Cardiff. We asked him to share his photographs and the story of the project here with us.
The project first came about when I was walking through Cardiff city centre at night and stopped to talk to a man who appeared to be sleeping rough. After speaking to him for a good 20 minutes, I had learnt so much about the harsh lifestyle the streets can offer, but I also learnt a lot about the other side, how the streets can make you a better person. I was intrigued to find out more and when I was set a project to produce a 10 photo story by my university lecturer, I knew that the two would work hand in hand. I decided to approach the project with the attitude to just carry my camera with me whenever I went out and see what stories I could uncover, this method seemed to work well.
The people I have spoken to that live on the streets are, genuinely, some of the most interesting people I have ever met. Being able to sit down next to them and see their view of Cardiff, especially at night has been truly moving.
The hardest thing about the project by far is walking away. Knowing that I’m going back to a warm room with food and water is a challenge in itself. I feel like I could sit there and talk to the subjects of my photos for hours, they really are that interesting.
Having never started a project like this before I was a little nervous, I didn’t know how people would react to having a camera placed just a few feet away from them in the middle of the night. However, as soon as I’d introduced myself to the first person I photographed I knew that the project would be more than just a set of photographs, it would be a heartwarming story. Since taking the photographs I have seen life a little different, I’ve appreciated things more and learnt that everyone has a story to tell, no matter what walk of life they come from.
More about me – I am a first year Photojournalism student at the University Of South Wales in Cardiff and enjoy taking portraits, shooting sports and many other types of photography. In my time before university I lived in Newark On Trent and worked as the official photographer for Notts County Ladies FC and also worked with the regional paper The Nottingham Post. I enjoy living in Cardiff with all the opportunities it offers both socially and photographically, I feel I’ve really made vast improvements in my photojournalistic work whilst studying here. I enjoy working with people, especially finding hidden stories and I aim to produce work that conveys those stories through the power of images.