Camera tells a thousand stories of Coast Shelter

THERE are hundreds of stories from 25 years of Coast Shelter, but freelance photographer and journalist Noel Fisher has captured 42 of them to provide an insight into the life-changing work carried out daily.

Noel, from NC Images, volunteered his time and talents for the project, Partnerships Ending Hardships, which began in April and has resulted in both a printed book and a 20-piece art exhibition at Gosford Regional Art Gallery until November 29.

The exhibition images were chosen by staff at Coast Shelter, as best representing its work, broadly summed up by its motto of restoring hope to those who are in need.

They are the pictures and stories of past and present clients, and the volunteers who help them.

ON THE MEND: Kath was suffering mental health issues and was extremely underweight when she came to Coast Shelter for support.
ON THE MEND: Kath was suffering mental health issues and was extremely underweight when she came to Coast Shelter for support. Noel Fisher

Noel, a respected photographer of 30 years, completed a journalism course at Macleay College Sydney last year and interviewed his subjects as well.

"It was a really inspiring project," Noel said. "They are quite amazing people with quite amazing stories.

"For many people, they had been pretty successful and one life event turned everything around and they found themselves out on the street with three kids, a dog and a cat."

Others told of remarkable transformations from a life in prostitution and/or addiction to drugs, or homelessness due to domestic violence, to finding hope, new jobs, homes and life paths.

Noel told of one woman, a victim of domestic violence, who had gone to the shelter because she feared her partner would endanger any family or friends she turned to.

Now a firefighter, she attributes Coast Shelter with giving her the confidence to turn her life around.

INSPIRED: Freelance photographer Noel Fisher has captured images and stories for the Partnerships Ending Hardships exhibit and book marking 25 years of Coast Shelter’s work.
INSPIRED: Freelance photographer Noel Fisher has captured images and stories for the Partnerships Ending Hardships exhibit and book marking 25 years of Coast Shelter’s work. Supplied

A number of the shelter's volunteers, he said, are people who have themselves been helped by it over the years, and want to give back.

One elderly gentleman still remembered being homeless for a short time in the 1960s, when he travelled to Adelaide for a job which didn't materialise, and he was forced to sleep rough on the riverbank.

He apparently vowed from that time to always help those in need, and goes to Coast Shelter almost every day to lend a hand.

Noel was pleased to be part of the project, which he hoped would help people realise how little they know about what others have gone through, as they pass them on the street, and not be so quick to judge.

The book will be on sale at the exhibition and at venues around the coast for $19.95, with all proceeds going to the Shelter.

For details, call the gallery on 4346 1257 or go to the shelter's website www.coastshelter.org.au.


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