Off The Concrete was a collaborative work which was initially funded in 2015 by Buckinghamshire County Council.
The project is about the homeless and is filmed and narrated by the homeless.
The Bucks Service User Consultation 2015 identified that users outsides services found drug and related services easy to access, that waiting lists were not a problem and services had a good knowledge of most drugs. So what was stopping these users accessing services?
The report also highlighted that some users thought services failed to understand the lifestyle they were leading. Many of theses individuals were homeless, injected mephedrone or mephedrone and heroin in combination and were from Aylesbury. ‘Off The Concrete’ focused on capturing their story on film.
Individuals being asked to participate in the production of video, audio or photographic work for TD Consultancy signed a consent form. Participation in the shoot was voluntary and individuals were free to withdraw at any time. Participants were given the opportunity to review the film and ask for any comments to be removed if they so wished.
All names, faces, voices and distinguishable features were not changed or hidden when filming, or in editing, this is the way participants wanted it. They all specifically stated that they did not want to hide their faces or names.
‘Off The Concrete’ was a series of short video clips, shot on ‘low tech’ mobile phones and an inexpensive camcorder. The project depicted the lifestyles and the day-to-day routine of homeless people taking mephedrone in Aylesbury. It was filmed over a period of 8 weeks from September to October 2015.
I began filming on a mobile phone but unfortunately the sound quality is poor on these devices. After filming Rachel, I realised I needed to change the camera and find someone who could do the filming who was homeless themselves. I felt that this would be more authentic in capturing people’s lifestyles rather than me pointing the camera at them, interview-style in a disused office or car park. I began looking for a camera operator.
Some individuals who were homeless had cameras on their phone. As I was going over the logistics of how to get footage from multiple phones I met someone who had studied photography who was interested in taking over the camera work. He slept in a tent and it was difficult to find this person again as the tenting community were always moving and did not disclose where they were sleeping. My second camera operator hit crisis a week into filming.
Jim was the third camera operator. We met several times at a café and Jim was keen to get involved with the project. We looked at several camera options and purchased a second-hand camcorder. Jim was himself homeless 4 weeks prior to the filming. Jim subsequently started a course and began working voluntary on the project and was key in getting the project off the ground.
It is envisaged the videos will help relevant professionals and staff have an insight to what life on the street is really like, especially employees not connected to this area of work. Each person in the video is introduced by the profession they had in an attempt to humanise the situation, so people can identify in some way with this group, as Dean says in the video ‘we’re not bad people’.
The video demonstrates that most people need some form of assistance in getting off the street. That they are vulnerable, some with serious medical needs and in many cases are considered non-priority for housing and driven towards private landlords. Large deposits, rent arrears and landlords not accepting benefits were mentioned as barriers to housing.
What was also highlighted was that there were no facilities for homeless people to have a wash in the morning, nowhere to fill out a CV or to dress a wound, nowhere to store their belongings or bedding. Most people were out all day or managed to get 4 hours sleep each night and were constantly moved on by car park attendants or in some cases the police.
Jim has decided to take the project on himself and has successfully enrolled on a film making course.
History of Mephedrone