Copyright © 2022 Tomo Kihara. All rights reserved
A way to discontinue begging for homeless people.
2017 ~ 2019
Street debating is a job aimed at bridging the social divide by creating a platform for open dialogue. During the my time at Delft University of Technology, this job was conceived as a new method for homeless people in Europe to earn money without losing their dignity, offering an alternative to begging. Street debate uses a board with a question written on it, and a balance-like tool with two options for answers, inviting passers-by to cast their vote. Through the debate, money is placed on the scales, making public opinion visible. The interactions that take place are not based on a "giver" and "receiver" relationship, but rather on friendly dialogue, and through these interactions, it is hoped to rebuild the connection between the homeless and society. In fact, there are individuals who got out of the streets in London through this job.
As part of a student project at TU Delft, I interviewed twenty-six people who were begging on the streets of London and in Amsterdam. Through these contextual interviews, I discovered that many of them were struggling to keep their dignity intact because when a person begs, they are throwing away their dignity in exchange for a few coins.
I arrived at the hypothesis that long-term begging leads to a gradual loss of self-confidence and dignity. While most people begin to beg temporarily, many continue to do so continuously. And the longer someone begs on a daily basis, the harder it becomes for them to find employment and connect back with society on more equal terms.
When people continue temporal begging for too long it becomes difficult for them to go back to having a steady job.
How can we make more alternative ways avoid temporal begging all together?
Insights from prototyping
I conducted co-design with the people who were begging on the street to come up different ways of earning money on the street. Most prototypes failed but one intervention before the US election in 2016 worked. It was by using multiple cups to ask questions. This stopped many people for a friendly chat. I realised that this conversation aspect was crucial. For people who beg or do not have a home, conversation as an equal rarely occurs, but it is essential to one’s dignity.
Me doing street prototyping on the go
People were having political debate, nothing to do with that have nothing to do with homelessness.
sketch of how most people interact with people begging.
The improved interaction with the two cups.
To enhance the conversation aspect of the interaction, the scale-like product was developed. The product was handed out to people who were begging on the streets in London.
Data is open-sourced and anyone can make it
The two colours were based from what would stand out on the street.
One homeless street debater in London used this for more than 3 month and got off the streets with the money he earned. He now has a place to stay and a steady job. On average he earned 70 pounds per day and the maximum money he earned per day was 180 pounds.
Street debating is not just a thing for homeless people. From politicians to chefs, anybody can become a street debater to question the society. The device data is open source and can be made by anyone. You might bump into some random street debaters on the street.
This project is never to be understood as the "solution" to the huge problem of homelessness and begging.