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Why The Crown stars have unveiled a giant sculpture of a homeless person

Charity Crisis said the 14ft sculpture makes homelessness “impossible to ignore”. It’s hard to argue

If you want to raise awareness of homelessness, commissioning a giant sculpture of a homeless person and asking stars of the biggest TV show around to unveil it at one of the UK’s busiest train stations is a strong way to do it.

And that’s what charity Crisis has done. The sculpture, called Alex, appeared overnight outside London’s King’s Cross rail station, where it was unveiled by The Crown stars Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce.

Crisis says it makes homelessness “impossible to ignore”. And it’s hard to argue.

At 2.5 tonnes and over 14ft tall, it stands as a visible testament to the hundreds of thousands experiencing homelessness in the UK. Advanced face mapping technology combined the features of 17 people experiencing homelessness for the sculpture, which was created by artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata.

“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,” the artist said. “This is the largest sculpture I’ve ever created and I sincerely hope it makes the desired impact and stops everyone in their tracks.”

Alex outside London King’s Cross station. Image: Crisis

Staunton, an ambassador for Crisis, said: “As a nation we need to do better and this Christmas, we can all be part of that change. This installation stands as a testament and a rallying cry, we cannot sit idly by and watch the situation worsen. The intention of this incredibly lifelike sculpture is simple: homelessness cannot be ignored any longer.”

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The stunt comes as research from Crisis revealed 300,000 households could be forced into homelessness next year if the government does not act. 

The sculpture is a huge 14ft. Image: Crisis

A total of 3,628 people were sleeping rough in London between July and September this year, according to the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) – up 24 per cent compared to the same period last year. The increase is being driven by people sleeping rough for the first time, with a total of 1,844 people new to the streets.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We can’t ignore the mounting pressure that is building on low income households as they struggle under the weight of price rises they cannot afford. I am proud today to stand shoulder to shoulder with Imelda Staunton and fellow Crisis clients as we unveil this beautifully lifelike giant sculpture.”

Crisis is urging the government to increase the housing benefit so that it covers the true cost of rents. Two in five private renters (1.7 million households) are reliant on housing benefits to keep a roof over their heads. 

“We need to remember homelessness is solvable,” Downie added, “and can be ended for good through sensible policy changes and a good hearted political agenda. Let’s keep reminding Wesminster of this, because by standing together this Christmas, we can achieve great things.”

Alex will be in Kings Cross for two days, surrounded by QR codes which direct people to the website and opportunities to donate to Crisis, before moving to the Birmingham Bullring. 

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The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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