We’re getting the ball rolling….

By Axel Morgan

Thursday the 8th of October marked the beginning of Encompass Southwest’s exciting new media project with the meeting of the 6 team members.

For some of us, this was our first encounter within the world of volunteering for a homeless charity. Personally, I had just encountered the volunteering opportunities on their website, and knew I had to get involved.

Any nerves were soon calmed by our resident Encompass professionals, Ben and Claire; I was part of the team.

We settled around a table and set the cameras rolling.

From the start our main goal was clear to us; to develop Encompass’s media resources to give vulnerable people a voice. Media can encompass (pardon the pun) a gargantuan range of things: photography, film, social media, books, magazines, music, apps, the list goes on. This is a big job.

We have been fortunate in a number of ways – not only has Encompass previously worked with the BBC and Children in Need, to produce a documentary featuring Stacey Dooley, but we also had some highly experienced volunteers as part of the media team. Gareth is the head of the media department at a local college, and Creative Director at North Devon Moving Image, whilst Ben graduated from university with a film degree a number of years ago.

As the title suggests, we decided on making a film project, as well as a number of supplementary resources, this blog being one of them.  We want to produce content which has an impact not just on our own region, but the rest of the country; to give people a voice they may never have had.

Naturally, there were some challenges along the way.  Due to the broad range of issues that encompass is involved with, deciding what to focus the film on would be more difficult. How should we choose between the myriad of poverty related issues in our society?

This led us onto a discussion of the reality of poverty in the UK.

What it’s really like

Claire and Ben gave us a brief overview of what encompass focused on; inside of homelessness, rough sleeping, supported housing, and financial inclusion there are a wealth of problems which all need resolving, from gender misconceptions in homelessness, to abusive relationships.

But these effects aren’t limited to where Encompass operates; the effects of poverty on people in our country are as plentiful as they are varied. The most recent figures from Shelter reveal 280,000 people to be homeless in England, with tens of thousands more at risk of homelessness, trauma, and drug addiction1.

Likewise, the effects of poverty are not just a city issue, previous reports from IPPR suggested that mainly rural authorities saw a 32% increase in rough sleeping, whilst largely rural areas recorded a whopping 52% increase in rough sleeping2. This is not an issue which rural communities are sheltered from; the complications of a poverty-stricken Britain are present in every community.

Whilst these statistics are shocking, the individual stories brought with them a sense of reality which statistics often miss. Claire and Ben began telling the stories of some of the people they have worked with.

Michael, a 54-year-old North Devon man, had been rough sleeping for 15 years with very poor health and visual impairment. On top of all this, Michael had to live with maggots in his feet, and rats running around inside his tent. How is this acceptable?

It has to change. If we all do our bit, we can help the hundreds of thousands of sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts… people just like Michael, live happier, healthier lives. Click here to hear more stories just like Michael’s.

So, what are we going to do about it?

From our first meeting, it became clear that we have a lot to do. And whilst the film will be the main focus of our work, we also aim to increase @RISK’s media presence over the coming months, so make sure you stay tuned.

To stay updated on this exciting film project, as well as all the other important things that Encompass is working on then follow the @Risk blog

If you would like to donate to Encompass Southwest and help support the fight against poverty in the UK then please donate at the Encompass website. Please follow our social media @Risk

Works Cited

Shelter. (2019, Dec 18). Shelter England. Retrieved Oct 2020, from https://england.shelter.org.uk/: https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/280,000_people_in_england_are_homeless,_with_thousands_more_at_risk

Snelling, C. (2017). Right to home? Rethinking homelessness in rural communities. Retrieved 2020, from ippr.org: http://www.ippr.org/publications/right-to-home