arch-peace editorials

26 September 2016

Stories From the STREAT

Recently, Architects for Peace met a team of creative people working to empower homeless young people in Melbourne through the sharing of stories. Read on to learn more about the STREAT Stories Mapping Project.

City streets are shared by people from all works of life; from different places, cultures and backgrounds. In our everyday lives we tend to live in our own little worlds. Our journeys around cities are filled with our own memories and thoughts. We see the city through a lens that is clouded with our own histories and world views. We rarely get a chance to think about the city from the perspective of others.

The STREAT Stories Mapping Project provides us with a chance to view new perspectives. It allows us to see the city through a different lens- that of the young people who call the city streets home. They have a very different view of the city to most others, and see the streets from a different angle and at all times of the day. Viewing the city through their lens, we can learn a lot. Not only about our city, but about the lives and experience of others. The project builds compassion through understanding. It provides the broader Melbourne community with an idea of what it feels like to be homeless and disadvantaged in one of the world’s most 'liveable' cities.

STREAT is a much loved Melbourne based social enterprise that provides homeless and disadvantaged young people with life skills, training and work experience. STREAT operates a number of city cafes, and recently unveiled 66 Cromwell St, Collingwood, which incorporates youth spaces, a bakery, roastery and cafe to showcase the teams cooking and coffee making skills. Founded by CEO Bec Scott and Kate Barrelle in 2009, STREAT has trained and supported hundreds of young people. For this project, STREAT collaborated with the non/fictionLab in RMIT's School of Media and Communication and artist Alex Hotchin.

Stayci Taylor and Francesca Rendle-Short  from non/fictionLab have contributed the following words about the project and the process of collaboration:

"At the end of 2015, STREAT collaborated with RMIT University’s non/fictionLab and designer Alex Hotchin to empower the disadvantaged youth participating in STREAT’s programs to tell their own stories. The resulting #STREATstories Story Mapping Project connects homeless youth with other members of their communities. Working from the idea that we all share the same city, the project invites communities to tell their shared stories. 

The first of many planned creations was the Christmas wrapping paper, created from the stories of homeless youth, Indigenous collaborators, participants in STREAT events and shoppers at Melbourne Central. The map was distributed as wrapping paper at Melbourne Central in the busy 2015 holiday season, and supplies ran out several times. 

After an initial period of coming together and brainstorming, Alex Hotchin began the map-drafting process, while stories came in from STREAT participants and events, within which RMIT’s Stayci Taylor ran writing workshops. In October 2015, the non/fictionLab hosted the first official meeting of the blended team of STREAT, RMIT and independent representatives.  Those present included: designer Alex, STREAT CEO Rebecca Scott, Jarryd Williams (STREAT’s General Manager of Youth Programs) and non/fictionLab co-director Francesca Rendle-Short. From here stories were collated for incorporation into Alex’ evolving design. Out of this meeting came other exciting developments, including the inclusion of hashtags to link those experiencing the map to longer versions of the stories, as well as to songs composed from the stories and recorded (#STREATbeats). 

The text comes from the writers’ direct experience of the city.  While some of the text is quite literal in its placement, some invites the reader to enjoy the unexpected context.  Landmarks take subtly new forms as inspired by the imaginative interpretations of some of the writers. One-line snippets from stories run along city streets. Longer stories sit in blocks on the grid. An acknowledgement of country floats through the Yarra. The collaboration with Alex and STREAT aligns with the aims and objectives of the non/fictionLab, which is engaged in creative fieldwork, critical perspectives and imaginative inquiry".

The STREAT Stories Mapping project is an inspiring example of how we can share urban stories. Building shared understanding is a key part of creating strong, connected and inclusive communities.

To learn more about the organisations involved in the STREAT Stories Mapping project, follow the links at the end of this post. We also encourage you to visit #STREATbeats and listen to some of the youth stories that have been turned into songs.

Gathering stories from the STREAT. ©RMITnon/fictionlab

STREAT Stories Map.  ©AlexHotchin

STREAT Stories Map.  ©AlexHotchin

STREAT map christmas gift wrap. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.

non/fiction lab team members Stacyi Taylor and Francesa Rendle-Short. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.

STREAT map christmas gift wrap. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.

STREAT Stories Project Team:

STREAT is a social enterprise helping homeless youth to have a stable self, stable job and stable home. Through its six hospitality businesses in Melbourne STREAT provides young people with supported pathways to employment – including assistance finding stable housing, vocational skills, improved mental health and well-being.

RMIT non/fictionLab is a research centre that critically explores and articulates the value of creative work as a playful vessel for the imagination. This thinking through making can show people who they are and how they are implicated in the lives of others. Non/fiction lab builds and supports laboratories of practice around matters of social, political, cultural and environmental concern. They work in partnership with fellow scholars, writers and artists, and with industries and communities, local and international. The team for this project includes Dr Michelle Aung Thin, Kat Clarke, Dr Melody Ellis, Dr Francesca Rendle-Short, Dr Ronnie Scott and Stayci Taylor. 

Alex Hotchin is an illustrator, creator, map maker and adventurer. Working across a variety of media, she creates work based on the principals of story telling by capturing detailed moments in multi-layered narratives.  She has a particular interest in the art of map making, and uses this medium to tell stories about the inherent subjectivity of experiencing a place.  Her maps have been exhibited in New York, Istanbul and Melbourne.


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