What can you expect if you’re homeless and ask your local council for help? Frequently Asked Questions, is an ongoing project created by Anthony Luvera and Gerald Mclaverty lifts the lid on the twists, turns and bureaucratic dead ends faced by Britain’s most vulnerable people. In January 2018 Frequently Asked Questions was presented at Tate Liverpool by the Museum of Homelessness.
The work shows how local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales respond when emailed questions like ‘where can I get something to eat?’ Informed by Mclaverty’s experience of homelessness, the questions illustrate rough sleepers’ struggle to meet their most basic needs.
The results show how 61 councils responded to the questions shown below:
I’m homeless and have no money –
Where can I go for something to eat and drink?
Where can I find shelter when it is raining or snowing?
Where can I go to the toilet during the day?
Where can I go to the toilet during the night?
Where can I get a bath or a shower?
Where can I get clothes, footwear and a blanket?
Where can I sleep during the night that is safe?
Where can I go to use a computer?
Where can I go to use a telephone?
Where can I go to see a doctor?
Where can I go to see a dentist?
Councils were given new powers and responsibilities last year by the Homelessness Reduction Act. But only five councils responded to these questions showing how much change is still needed.
Frequently Asked Questions was first presented in 2014 as part of Assembly, a larger body of work made with over 50 homeless people living in Brighton and Hove, commissioned by Brighton Photo Fringe. Seeking a way to present research about support and services available to homeless people, Anthony struck up a collaboration with a participant called Gerald Mclaverty. This involved sending email correspondence to council representatives in cities and towns across the UK, written from Gerald’s experience of homelessness, requesting information about services provided in each locality. At the heart of Frequently Asked Questions is a number of questions that enquire about a homeless individual’s right to access to basic living provisions such as shelter, personal safety, health, food, and communication. It is Gerald’s firm belief that councils around the UK do not always have adequate answers to these questions.
Throughout 2017 Gerald and Anthony undertook further research with a new round of enquires sent to 61 local authorities. Frequently Asked Questions in 2018 was presented at Tate Liverpool as a 13-meter wall installation in the Tate Exchange space accompanied by a programme of events, as part of MoH’s State of the Nation programme. The work invites audiences to contemplate the information and range of responses provided by the local authorities. It provides a picture of how services both help and hinder people, and gives insight into the challenges and realities faced by the most marginalised individuals in society as they attempt to access systems of care.