Consider these two messages. 80,000 young people experience homelessness every year, fact. The graphic and stark image of now deceased previously homeless Lucy’s feet, toes bound on a mortuary table with the message, “Lucy’s not homeless any more!”
Is one more powerfully than the other? They’re both equally relevant, both crushingly affective but we’re human and people not numbers affect us more.
The un-ashamedly stark campaign by Centre point strikes a balance between the size of the problem and the personal story of one young person who didn’t survive homelessness. And whilst the number, 80,000 is shockingly high for any society to be anything but ashamed of, I found myself thinking about Lucy’s story and wondering who she was and how she came to have her toe’s tied together on that stainless steel table.
Looking at the soles of her feet, feet that were swollen and showed the wear-and-tear of living a scratch existence where caring for your feet is hard to impossible. I found myself thinking about when Lucy was a baby, those same feet were once tiny and adorable and would have been played with and tickled and kissed by adoring parents. At least I hope that Lucy had that start to her life and had not been born into a life of abuse and cruelty. I don’t know the answer, I don’t know her life. But it shows that an image and a simple truth touches our hearts and imaginations.
Centre Point gives us enough of a story to grab our attention but leaves room for us to fill in the blank spaces of her life and in doing so make us feel powerfully connected to Lucy. And when that person is dead, as Lucy is, and beyond help we know we can’t make a difference to her life anymore. That’s the point though; Lucy’s story with its tragic ending is beyond us, but we can help those who still could escape homelessness.
Facts are important but the size of a problem, its breadth and depth isn’t real to us. Facts are proof a problem exists and needs a solution. People are real to us, and as in the case of homelessness, it is something we are all just three or four problems in life away from experiencing ourselves.
The real power is always in the people and their story.