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Painting the homeless in a different light

By David Hennessy

The manager of Ealing Soup Kitchen has been painting portraits of the soup kitchen’s clients and found it has been lifting them in a tough times while also showing the homeless community in a way they haven’t been seen before.
Andrew McLeay told The Irish World that he got the idea after realising the people the soup ktichen serves are not represented anywhere.

“It’s deeply personal beause it’s not every day you get painted, right?

“Some of them have got teary eyed and things. They genuinely don’t believe that they’re worth much.

Ealing Soup Kitchen Manager Andrew with some of his portraits.

“When you take a photograph, what you see is what you get but when you paint somebody, you can see something in them that they don’t see and paint that onto the canvas too.

“It can actually show the community a different side to the homeless which is really what I want to do. I would love to show the communtiy the way I see them rather than the way they maybe see themselves or the the way society sees them.

“I would love to do an exhibition of all of them just to show the different faces. It would be nice to show society that community in a way that is creative and therefore accessible.”

Andrew has found the lockdown has been tough on many of the soup kitchen’s clients but that the thought and effort that goes into a painting has really meant a lot.

“One of our guys got Covid right at the start. He was in ICU for nearly two months. He’s in a nursing home now and they’re helping him to walk again.

“Something like this, sending him a painting is amazing because he can see people are still thinking about him, people are still caring about him.”

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The Irish World has reported from Ealing Soup Kitchen on numerous occasions and spoken to Irish volunteers and users of the service. They can not operate as they normally would but are able to offer a take-away and outreach service.

“When you came down, there were people chatting to one another and having a laugh and a joke. We can’t do that anymore. We don’t have the connection that we used to have. It’s quite a sad time for them. Having anything that kind of reminds them that there are people out there who still love them is vital.

“Painting is something I’ve been doing since lockdown because it gives me a bit of time to do it but also it’s a nice thing for them to see when they come to the drop-in and they haven’t spoken to anyone but they see something creative.”

Andrew has done about 70 of these homeless portraits. He gives them to the subjects if they want them but many sadly don’t have anywhere to take it so he holds onto them until such time as they do.

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