VR experience highlights the harsh reality of being homeless on Oxford Street

New virtual experience offers an emotive insight into life as a homeless person in London

Austin Clark | 7th Dec 17

A homeless charity has turned to virtual reality to show the harsh reality of life on the streets.

As December approaches, many people will be hoping for a picturesque white Christmas as they tuck into their Turkeys and empty their stockings. But, for London’s homeless population, priorities are rather different as they are faced with the prospect of spending the freezing cold festive season without a roof over their heads.

For many people, life on the streets is impossible to comprehend, but a new virtual experience created by filmmaker Simon Waller offers an emotive insight into life as a homeless person in London.


Harsh reality

‘Look the Other Way’, produced in partnership with homeless charity The Passage, gave members of the public the chance to step into the shoes of a rough sleeper and feel what it is like to be isolated and vulnerable in the capital.

The experience lasts several minutes. Users don a headset that offers them a glimpse into what it is like to be homeless on Oxford Street, before switching to an underground pass at night time, where they are alone and confronted by a stranger.

The short film is in aid of The Passage, London’s largest voluntary sector resource centre for homeless and vulnerable people. The Passage are based in Westminster, which has the highest rate of homelessness in the UK. Homelessness is a growing problem across the UK, with the number of people sleeping rough having risen for the past six consecutive years.


Hard-hitting experience

Mick Clarke, Passage CEO, said: “We are so grateful to Simon Waller for putting this experience and video together for The Passage. This project has helped us raise awareness of the trauma of being on the streets. It’s really important to us that every person is treated with respect and dignity at all times, our staff ensure this is the case and continue to provide vital support to every one of our clients.”

Osama Shafiq of C&C Alpha Group was one of the people interviewed in the video. On the VR experience, he said: “There are two parts to the experience: in one you are threatened by an aggressive guy who is telling you that you are worthless and don’t deserve to live. The other you are on Oxford Street.

“The aggression was horrible, I felt threatened and even a bit fearful and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. But in a way, Oxford Street was almost worst. When you are being threatened someone is at least noticing that you are there, on Oxford Street I felt that I was segregated from society and alone. It makes you realise how fortunate you are.”