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  • Rob Whitney

@RISK - Natasha's Story About Youth Homelessness in North Devon

What does it mean to be ‘at risk’? More importantly, at risk of what?

These are the questions the @RISK project seeks to answer. Because there are important stories that need to be told. People who need to be heard. And organisations in need of support. All on our front doorstep, here in North Devon.

It’s all too easy to sweep problems away, under the rug. To turn a blind eye and pretend these issues don’t exist in our community. Ignoring them in the hope they’ll go away. So long as it doesn’t affect us it’s not our problem.

But what happens when it does affect us? What happens when it becomes our problem? What happens when we find ourselves at risk?

North Devon Moving Image has been collaborating closely with Encompass Southwest since October 2020. We’ve been exploring ways to give a voice to the voiceless in North Devon. At the same time, building a platform where anyone who may be at risk can find information, support, and solace in the fact that they are not alone and help is at hand.

As a Community Interest Company (CIC), NDMI works with the people of North Devon to empower them to tell their stories to local, national and global audiences through film. Our interest lies in the community we serve, and when the opportunity to work with Encompass arose, it felt like the stars had aligned.

Encompass is a charity dedicated to helping people across North Devon who are either experiencing or facing the prospect of homelessness. The charity offers free and confidential advice on a variety of issues such as money and debt, rough sleeping, housing and accommodation, young people’s housing, and homelessness support. In short, when people feel they have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to, Encompass is there to help pick up the pieces.

With so many powerful stories to be told and so many voices to be heard, NDMI and Encompass developed the @RISK project with the following objectives:

  • for young people to feel understood/listened to

  • to empathise with the risk young people are exposed to

  • to tell stories without judgement

  • to give young people hope

  • to bring about systemic change

  • to create a genuine empathetic connection with the audience

These aims were deliberately ambitious and driven by a desire to better serve and support the local community. Of course, stating your intentions and being able to deliver them are two very different things. And the problem with an ambitious vision is that it’s very easy to become seduced by trying to deliver on every objective at once, and then not deliver on any at all.

So, the expectations of this project were carefully managed and our entire energy was focused on delivering one significant outcome in the short term. Making a single film to kick things off. Creating a pilot documentary about youth homelessness. This one film could then be used as a springboard to develop an informative blog and social media campaign, and then lead to further documentaries and possibly a podcast around issues linked to people at risk. If we could tell people’s stories in a powerful and intimate way, then maybe we could give others hope.

Essentially, we were creating the film that would set the wheels of the @RISK project in motion.

This is how we ended up meeting Natasha.

And this is how we got to tell Natasha’s Story.

There are still many stories to tell.

And there are still many people in need of a voice and in need of support.

​Hopefully, the @RISK project will introduce them to us all and help to achieve the change we seek to make

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