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Film-maker offers a virtual reality look at Oxford Street homelessness

Simon Waller’s Look The Other Way project gives an insight into how rough sleepers experience life on the streets

22 December, 2017 — By Tom Foot

A VIRTUAL reality homelessness experience has been set up to give people a better understanding of what it’s like to be vulnerable and alone living on the streets.

Film-maker Simon Waller’s Look The Other Way was produced in partnership with the Passage homelessness project, based in Victoria. Through a VR headset, you can experience what it is like to be homeless in Oxford Street and vulnerable in an underground pass at night-time, being confronted by a stranger.

Osama Shafiq, who is interviewed in a film about the project, said: “There are two parts to the experience: in one you are threatened by an aggressive guy who is telling you that you are worthless and don’t deserve to live. In the other you are on Oxford Street.

“The aggression was horrible, I felt threatened and even a bit fearful and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. But in a way, Oxford Street was almost worst. When you are being threatened someone is at least noticing that you are there, on Oxford Street I felt that I was segregated from society and alone. It makes you realise how fortunate you are.”

In the film about the project Geoff Kearns, homeless for four years, said: “Where can you go, you can’t go and lock the doors. You never know who’s going to come up and spit on you, beat you up. The general public ignore you as they think you are an outcast. If they saw what I saw on the streets they would be more understanding.”

The Passage, based in Westminster, has the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

Mick Clarke, its chief executive, said: “This project has helped us raise awareness of the trauma of being on the streets. It’s really important to us that every person is treated with respect and dignity at all times.

Our staff ensure this is the case and continue to provide vital support to every one of our clients.”


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