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Introducing Taipei's homeless art organisations

A chance meeting in Spitalfields Market in February has led to an unexpected sharing on best practices between Cafe Art / MyWorld Creative Projects and the homeless arts community in Taiwan.

In February a small group of support workers from Taipei, who were in London at the invitation of the Big Issue, came across our MyLondon calendar table and bought calendars and cards from homeless photographer Richard Fletcher.

Top: A selfy with the team from Yo-Wash Care Association, Taipei. They hire homeless people, ex-offenders and other economically disadvantaged people. They use donated equipment to pressure wash basket ball courts in schools. They also do house clearances of people who have died with no extended families. Bottom: The initial meeting in Spitalfields Market in February.

By chance I was with Richard at the time and was able to exchange contact details with Hang Li a co-founder of the Sandwishes Studio in Taipei who was one of the group and so when I was able to stop in Taipei on my way back from my home country of New Zealand I contacted him to see if I could meet up. Sandwishes Studio is an art and design studio which has a goal of social inclusion.

I didn't expect more than a meeting but what Hang Li and his colleague Liga gave me was fantastic. During the six days I was there they introduced me to many organisations working with the homeless population of Taipei, including those who provide food to people who are sleeping outside every night, a photography library that doubles as a day centre, an organisation that employs homeless people to clean schools and do house clearances of single people who have died, and more.

On my first full day in the city I presented Cafe Art's MyLondon project to them. Some of the group who I had met in London had met Richard Fletcher and one of the questions was about how much he earned selling the MyLondon calendar last year, as he had told them he earns a lot. I explained that he does indeed earn a lot during busy times, as he gets a percentage of each sale. On a quiet day he might earn very little I explained. Richard, who is 64 years old, uses part of his income to pre-book backpacker hostels online in London every week. Before selling the calendar he used to sleep on benches in St Pancras Station.

Below: Hang Li and Liga organised an ideas exchange workshop event at for the Taiwan art groups to share their projects with each other, and to hear about MyLondon.

Below: The Poor's Taipei exhibition in MoCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art). The artists, all of who were affected by homelessness, were involved in the instalation of the exhibition.

Below: Do You A Flavor is a community centre where people can come and have a shower and use a community kitchen. They also produce a publication that is sold to the public.

Below: A bench art installation outside the Museum of Contemporary Art highlighting the issue of park benches which are often created to make sleeping in parks impossible.

Another place for people who are homeless to meet is Lightbox, a library for books about photography. Created by Liang-Pin Tsao, the library started when he was concerned about the disappearance of photography books so he decided to create a centre to preserve them for people who would like to read them.

It was great to connect with the many people dedicated to helping people who are affected by homelessness in Taipei. It gave me a huge boost of motivation to know there are people working with the same issues of homelessness as we have in London and to see how they have have been create in their ways of helping people.

Below: Hang Li (left) and volunteers showing me one of a few public places in Taipei where homeless people are permitted to sleep over night.

Below: Paul Ryan speaking about MyLondon, Cafe Art and MyWorld Creative Projects.

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