Youth s visual heart
An image from 'May'

Young people have been pouring their experiences of homelessness into an art project aimed to help other young people with similar problems.

Home Is Where My Heart Is, a photographic exhibition which opened yesterday as part of Homeless Persons Week, captures aspects of homelessness from the point of view of those who recently lived through it.

Each of the 12 participants, identified only by their first name, was handed a camera and assigned a mentor - mostly young visual arts graduates or emerging photographers - who helped them with the technical and artistic aspects of photography.

Working over several months, the young photographers concentrated on turning what had been a negative experience into a positive outcome.

Home Is Where My Heart Is, a partnership between Propel Youth Arts and the advocacy body Youth Affairs Council of WA, is now in its fifth year.

The participants started by researching homelessness with their mentors, and then went looking for subjects that would reflect their personal perspective.

The result is a highly personal account of what home means to each individual, and how young people have survived the experience of homelessness.

"When the project started five years ago, the aim was to get young people to literally tell their stories of homelessness," says Youth Affairs Council executive officer Craig Comrie.

"But often these stories are difficult to tell because there is a good deal of pain behind them. So it was decided that the medium of photography would be the ideal way to tell a story without having to verbalise."

Each participant has selected one large-scale photograph and three smaller photographs for display.

Mr Comrie said homelessness continued to be a problem in WA, with the State second after the NT in the rate of homelessness.

"It's very much a hidden problem here because you don't see people sleeping in parks or on city streets like you might in the bigger cities. But any night of the week, there will be young people "couch surfing" at a friend's place, or sleeping in a crisis centre."

Mr Comrie said the main reason for homelessness was that young people were escaping an unsafe environment.

Proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the charities helping young people in crisis.

The West Australian

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