Monday, May 19, 2008

Reverse Graffiti

I subscribe to Google News Alerts of news containing the words homeless or homelessness, so every week I get 80 to 100 emails alerting me to an average of 3 such news items each. I usually ignore them until a few hours before the weekly column is due. I then race through the 200 to 250 summaries of stories looking for one or two that I might riff on. There's usually nothing in it but the same repetitive old dreary crap: So many families homeless because of a building fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or whatever. Homeless man/woman arrested and charged for something. Teenagers who set fire to sleeping homeless man arraigned. Bush Homeless Czar congratulates city for its homeless plan. So there's not much to work from.

This week I again found nothing to use for the column, but I found this item on AWEARNESS, a blog about social issues by fashion designer Kenneth Cole. The story tells about a London campaign to raise awareness of the "hidden" homeless, those not sleeping outdoors.

A feature of the campaign are these reverse graffiti created by power-washing already dirty city walls. The symbolism is strong and apropos, but what I really love about it is the way it abuses the anti-graffiti laws. Can you vandalize a wall by cleaning it?

The message says, "Most homeless people have moved on but their problems haven't gone away."

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