Often they don’t talk much, all of their stories fit on a piece of cardboard. But Massachusetts-based artists Kenji Nakayama and Christopher Hope prove those stories are worth exploring. Their project, called “Signs for the Homeless”, started in 2012: the artists would buy the signs of the homeless people for $10 and give them back some really cool and vibrant typographic pieces of art.
The aim of this project is to raise awareness about the poverty and help the panhandlers to better express their needs. You can see in the before and after shots that new hand-crafted colorful signs are all about clarity and capturing attention. In exchange, the artists explored each homeless person’s back-story, asking questions about their current state and how they got there.
June 2013, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA (“The Pit”)
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Cambridge, MA.
How old are you?
52 years old.
How long have you been homeless?
How did you become homeless?
I was in a relationship where my partner was the primary bread winner, and I was a stay-at-home common law spouse. He was very abusive. After a while, the abuse got worse and worse until I finally left him. Domestic abuse is how I got here. Living outside, I found that a lot of women and teens are homeless in the Boston area because they were abused by men.
Now, I usually panhandle in Harvard Square. I’m also very passionate about Occupy Boston and the work that they do.
What is your biggest struggle being homeless?
Finding safety and shelter. I sleep outside because the shelters are nothing but stomping grounds for predators and theives. I get attacked in the shelter. My things get stolen in the shelters in Boston. So I’ve decided to stay outside.