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  • Alice Hsieh

Shelter: Shining a Light on the Unseen

It was drizzling in East London, a typical long, dark winter and quite empty. The rain was sharply cold, so I bowed my head to shield my face like anyone without an umbrella. Like everyone else, I walked, looking downwards with the freezing rain hitting the back of my head and shoulders, only lifting my eyes to see the way towards the Bethnal Green station.

As I quickened my pace, the sight of the deep stairway leading to the station's entrance brought a sense of relief. I was about to escape the cold, wet world above for the dry, warm, albeit stuffy, underground. But my relief was short-lived. Standing in the rain, right in my path towards the stairs, was a beggar. Unprotected from the rain, he appeared unwilling to give up his position.

My usual internal self starts to debate: Shall I give him some money? Does he need to be there? He is going to use the money for booze or drugs. - Alice, don't be a softie again. The most unsensible questions always dawned on me in this situation. I shamefully judge homeless people by the way they look and dress. No matter my decision, I hate myself when guilt speaks louder than shame.

Can you spare any change, please? 

I shook my head as I walked past him.

My longest journey to the underground station started there. I walked down the stairs, and yellow signs of WET FLOOR appeared around me, telling me it would be my fault if I slipped on the wet steps while my mind returned to my inner dialogue. Whether to search my bag for coins or continue my journey, I also knew I had to make a decision before passing through the barriers, or it would be too late. Just before I slid my ticket in the ticket gate, I turned and headed back towards the beggar.

I placed some coins into his hand. To my surprise, he said something that struck me: Thank you for walking all the way back in the rain for me. His words filled me with gratitude and sorrow as I realised he recognised my face from my earlier passage when I shook my head in response to his request.

I believed I was like anyone else, just another face, another person in the street who looked down while walking. But he remembered me from that fleeting moment, and his unexpected gratitude pierced through my anonymity. In that moment, I felt seen. I was no longer just a passerby. I was someone.

Alice Hsieh


I feel privileged to have some of my artworks featured in the Spring Art Fair organised by StudioMorey. The event aims to raise funds for Shelter, the charity facing huge demand due to the increased homelessness in London. This initiative helps the charity and provides a platform for new artists like myself alongside established ones. If you're interested in purchasing artwork from the fair, please request the catalogue or book an appointment by emailing by May 2nd, 2024.

Special thanks to



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