Why wait for change to happen? Student project helps homeless people

That which seems to be far away from us at first sight, is closer than we think. Homelessness can happen to any of us and has knock-on effects on the environment we live in. However, it does not take much to show the spirit of humanity to help others, which is illustrated by our service-learning project at WU. I never could have known how relevant my master´s program in Socio-Ecological Economics and Policy would soon become.

The autumn of 2015 marked the beginning of our awareness project on homelessness in Vienna by highlighting social responsibility as a crucial aspect in economics. After one year of profound research at WU, the results were presented in a self-produced documentary called “Obdachlos – Zuhause am Rande der Gesellschaft”. By using the power of videos it goes beyond common debates on social shortcomings, it is a quest for successful solutions for homelessness. In doing so, we talked with effected people as well as with institutions that provide help. Listening to personal stories of homeless people and talking about all that life contains and throws at them has changed the way I thought about homelessness in Vienna. Homelessness is often attributed to individual failures, but it has also deeper structural, economic and political reasons.

A project that changed my view

After this project, never ever again can I look upon a homeless person and feel unaffected, nor can I look at these social issues the same way ever again. Life writes unbelievable stories that are more diverse, varied and tragic than a movie could ever capture. However, our documentary is a trip into a different social reality that opens up your mind to different ways of seeing life. It is not an appeal to evoke the guilty conscience in people and to make them only engage arbitrarily. Why should we decide to take action for the one and not the other? No matter how complex our world is we cannot be held responsible for everything that happens within it. But what we can do is to take small steps towards a direction that makes life in our intertwined society better.

Perhaps more than ever before our world is engaged in conflicts and housing crises in cities which requires new approaches to understand the different directions that we are veering off. Also, the way in which the state and media actually treat homeless people has a crucial impact on how the rest of the society looks at them. This is why our project aims to change the dominant view on homeless people by highlighting their misfortunes as well as economic causes.

Film premiere at WU

As the film premiere in October at WU drew large crowds it shows that a lot of people want to make a difference, which was discussed in a panel discussion with Univ.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Novy (WU), Mag. Markus Reiter (Neunerhaus), Perrine Schober (Schades Tours) and Anja-Therese Salomon, BA (Co-Initiator). The opening remarks from Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger, rector of WU, also showed the importance of combining scientific analysis and social engagement at university. Our service-learning course enabled us to exchange ideas with like-minded people about social change and create awareness for those people who are all too often invisible in our society. As a result the range of the project considerably broadened and will be shown outside university at various public spaces and cinemas in the future.

The upcoming dates will be published on our Facebook page soon. To learn more about the project and our documentary playtimes please follow the link below: www.facebook.com/filmprojekt.obdachlos

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