14ft hyper-real homeless sculpture unveiled in Birmingham by Crisis charity

With new research revealing 300,000 households could be forced into homelessness next year, a towering hyper-real sculpture of a person experiencing homelessness has been unveiled in Birmingham on Thursday.

The colossal sculpture, named Alex, uses advanced face mapping technology to combine the facial features of seventeen people experiencing homelessness
The colossal sculpture, named Alex, uses advanced face mapping technology to combine the facial features of seventeen people experiencing homelessness

Appearing overnight in front of St Martin’s in the Bull Ring Church and commissioned by homelessness charity Crisis, the colossal sculpture standing 4.3 metres tall has been sculpted by artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata, a special effects prosthetics expert from London.

The statue was unveiled by Mayor Andy Street, director at Crisis Skylight Birmingham Matt Green, and head of policy at Crisis Jasmine Basran, making the statement that homelessness will be impossible to ignore this winter.

With temperatures dropping this week and people experiencing homelessness being ignored every day, the sculpture, named Alex, stands as a visible testament to the hundreds of thousands experiencing the worst kinds of homelessness, with sleeping on the streets, sofa surfing and living in temporary accommodation becoming more prevalent as the cost of living crisis bites.

The sculpture’s incredibly realistic facial features - brought to life via computer technology and using the profiles of seventeen people facing homelessness who have been supported by Crisis - were created to further reinforce the humanity in people experiencing one of the most brutal forms of homelessness; rough sleeping.

The colossal sculpture, named Alex, uses advanced face mapping technology to combine the facial features of seventeen people experiencing homelessness, with the launch coming as new research finds 300,000 households could be left homeless in 2023

Taking 10 weeks to create and sitting at 2.5 tonnes, the sculpture is surrounded by QR codes which lead visitors towards the website and opportunities to donate to the charity.

Alex was first unveiled at London’s Kings Cross before being transferred to the Birmingham Bullring where it will continue to raise awareness in the United Kingdom’s second largest city until Sunday.

The powerful stunt comes as research has revealed 300,000 households across Britain could be forced into homelessness next year, with thousands suffering the worst forms of homelessness including sleeping on the streets, sofa surfing, and living in temporary accommodation such as hostels and B&Bs.

The stark warning is made in The Homelessness Monitor: Great Britain, new research from homelessness charity Crisis led by Heriot-Watt University. It estimates that on any given night in 2023, 300,000 households could be experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, up from 227,000 in 2020, an increase of 32 per cent.

The colossal sculpture, named Alex, uses advanced face mapping technology to combine the facial features of seventeen people experiencing homelessness

There are clear indications that soaring living costs and a rapid decline in affordable housing is pushing people into homelessness.

Jasmine Basran, head of policy at Crisis, said: “300,000 households could face homelessness next year if the UK government doesn’t change its course. Let this vast number sink in and remember we can’t ignore the ever-increasing pressure on low income households as they struggle under the weight of price rises and rents they cannot afford.

"As we launch this incredibly impactful sculpture in Birmingham today, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Crisis clients as we show solidarity for people experiencing homelessness. Let’s remember homelessness is solvable, and together we can make a lasting difference.”

Crisis Head of Policy Jasmine Basran with Alex

Matt Green, director of Crisis Skylight Birmingham, commented: “I have been working with people experiencing homelessness in Birmingham for some time now, but recently, I have seen a marked change in those seeking help from Crisis Skylight Birmingham as the cost of living crisis pushes more people into poverty.

"With research now showing 300,000 households could face homelessness next year, there is no better time for Alex to visit Birmingham and to show the world that homelessness cannot be ignored any longer”

Director of Crisis Skylight Birmingham Matt Green with Alex

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street added: “Since becoming Mayor of the West Midlands, I have been focused on tackling homelessness and my top priority has been to assist those in society who find themselves rough sleeping in our region.

"This is why today, along with charity Crisis, I am proud to help launch Alex, a 14-foot high, hyper-realistic sculpture which should act as a colossal reminder that homelessness cannot be ignored any longer.

"Sitting in place at St Martin’s until Sunday, I would invite everyone in the West Midlands to visit Alex and continue their charitable efforts and donate what they can afford this Christmas.”

West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street with the colossal sculpture, named Alex

Artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata said: “I’ve been incredibly privileged to work with Crisis to bring this sculpture to life.

"It’s been a fascinating process harnessing artificial intelligence to create a face that represents homelessness, a problem that all too many of us ignore and struggle to engage with.

"This is the largest sculpture I’ve ever created and I sincerely hope it makes the desired impact and stops everyone in their tracks so they have no choice but to reflect on the issue and hopefully support this wonderful charity.”

With the homelessness crisis set to worsen in 2023, Crisis is calling on the nation to continue with their charitable efforts and donate what they can afford this Christmas. Visit crisis.org.uk/cantbeignored to find out how you can help.

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