Vancouver mission puts a face to homelessness

First United Church Mission in Vancouver placed hollow forms of homeless people around the city to start a dialogue and raise awareness.

Vancouverites are often confronted with homelessness, but earlier this week, they were forced to consider it in a different way after First United Church Mission placed the hollow forms of homeless people throughout the city’s downtown.

Working with DDB Canada’s Vancouver office, the homeless shelter and outreach organization placed three statues in busy areas of the city. One was sitting, one was standing with a full shopping cart and one was lying on the ground in a sleeping bag. Passersby took notice when they saw that the statues, under layers of clothes, were hollow and faceless.

The effect gave people a reason to think about how the homeless are generally ignored, and are treated as faceless, and the paper coffee cups in front of the statues had addresses of Facebook profiles (Jody, Steve, Gordon) where people could learn the true stories of three people the mission has helped, says Kevin Rathgeber, senior copywriter, DDB Canada.

‘It’s such a different way of reaching people on the street,’ he says. ‘We’re not beating our chests and saying, ‘oh, the poor people on the street, give them money, give them this, give them that.’ It’s more of an engaging way to get them involved.’

The Vancouver office of DDB Canada has had First United as a pro bono client for several years, Rathgeber added, and the agency is always looking for ways to raise awareness of what the mission does. Based on similar statues by US-based artist Mark Jenkins, the homeless forms were meant to force people to think about the problem.

‘We did it to create awareness,’ Rathgeber says. ‘We want to get some attention and if donations go up, that’s great, but we wanted to create some dialogue around the homelessness issue and raise awareness for what First United does.’