Wollongong Art Gallery is running art programs at the Homeless Hub and Wesley Community Centre

BRIGHT IDEA: Richard Lee is working with the homeless and disadvantaged people on art projects, one of which will be a 'message in a bottle' type installation. Picture: Sylvia Liber

BRIGHT IDEA: Richard Lee is working with the homeless and disadvantaged people on art projects, one of which will be a 'message in a bottle' type installation. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The director of Wollongong Art Gallery is seeing his vision come to life, using art and creativity to create connection in the community.

The reasons people become homeless are many and varied. - John Monteleone

John Monteleone has worked with different stakeholders to get a pilot outreach program running for homeless and disadvantaged people.

“Art is a forum, a platform for social change, art can make a difference to peoples lives,” he said.

“We tend to look at homeless people and think it’s their fault.

“People become homeless because of financial difficulties, mental health issues, because of substance abuse, they become homeless because of domestic violence.”

Lead artist Richard Lee is facilitating the art groups which are being held at Wesley Community Centre, the Homeless Hub and other locations.

He’s run similar programs in Victoria and the ACT and said it gives these people something to look forward to while for many it helps them renew their sense of belonging in the community.

“A lot of people seem unable to escape in some ways from some pretty bad experiences that have affected them,” Mr Lee said.

In the space of a few weeks since the program began, already participants are reporting how the group has brought positivity into their lives.

Duncan McDonald-Haynes, 29, is a regular at Wollongong’s Wesley Mission lunch services where he stumbled across one of the art groups.

Duncan McDonald-Haynes at an art group at Wesley Community Centre, Wollongong. Picture: Desiree Savage

Duncan McDonald-Haynes at an art group at Wesley Community Centre, Wollongong. Picture: Desiree Savage

Like others there (who wished not to be named) he said sitting down with a paintbrush helped him forget about the worries of his life.

“It’s good to get out and about and make it better for a while,” he said.

One woman said it allows her to funnel her stress and anxiety onto the paper, while another said it eases her need to chain-smoke.

Wollongong Art Gallery has worked with the Homeless Hub, the Wesley Church and Southern Youth and Family Services to pilot this program.

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