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Voices from the Shadows series a look at rural homeless challenges

People without homes face unique challenges – especially in a rural community – with no quick fix or singular solution.

Hear their voices, and those of people who are trying to help them as 99.3 County FM presents “Voices from the Shadows: Homeless in a Rural Community” an eight-part documentary series beginning Thursday, April 6 at 12:10 (and repeated at 6:10 p.m.) on the Grapevine show. It continues every Thursday until May 25.

Craig Mills, 99.3 General Manager, says the series dives into the many factors involved in why people are homeless, who they are, the barriers they face; and it also brings people to the table to share what they are doing to find solutions.

“The object was to build understanding and empathy. We by no means are pretending to be experts on homelessness… We also want to encourage community engagement and look for positive stories.”

Often perceived as an urban dilemma, many people without homes in rural areas, he notes, are more hidden, shadow and provisionally accommodated by couch surfing or transitional housing. On a positive note, Mills adds the team also found amazing fortitude in those who made it off the streets.

“We are proud to provide a platform for these important voices of our community. A dedicated group of excellent volunteers and our small but mighty staff have been working on this series since last summer.

The series is narrated by Wendy Mesley from a script written by Astrid Young.

“The idea that a human being living in Canada could be denied housing for any reason is unthinkable,” says Mesley in the series promotion video. “After all, we’re one of the most progressive nations in the world. We take care of our own, right?…. even the most basic housing is no longer affordable.”

Imagine, she adds, if circumstances in your life suddenly change – due to fire, divorce, death in the family, loss of a job, debilitating accident, declining health, or violent conflict within the home putting you or your children at risk.

“Would you be able to afford a home and support yourself even as everything that has sustained you so far is taken away?”

In sad stories from behind the scenes, shown above is the worldly possessions of a man who didn’t want to go to hospital “because all his belongings were on his wheelchair, and he just didn’t want to go.” He died two days after the photograph was taken for the Voices from the Shadows series.

Over the past eight months, volunteers with the radio station spoke with more than 60 individuals in and around the local homeless community, and to the people from organizations that try to help them.

“Their stories are uplifting, surprising, and gut-wrenchingly hard to imagine to those of us who have never experienced such challenges.”

“This is a hard topic. The interview experience was emotionally taxing even for seasoned interviewers,” said Dave MacKay, program designer, and interviewer, along with Mark Rodgers and Philip Knox. “The number of unhomed that came forward to tell their stories was motivating in getting their input experience to our listeners. I am proud to have led this project.”

“We spoke with 86 people and travelled over 975km from Quinte West, Belleville, Napanee and PEC and my eyes were really opened to how big the problem is, and how hard it has been for people to get help, and those trying to provide the various solutions to all of the causes for homelessness,” said Knox. “Some people have found a way through this minefield, but there are lots out there still struggling.”

Rogers adds he was struck by how complex and difficult life is for individuals experiencing homelessness.

“There is no quick fix or singular solution to help them turn their lives and circumstances around. Addressing one issue, like a safe place to stay, doesn’t begin to address the layers of other issues they face, like addiction, food insecurity, employment and so on. It’s an exhausting hill to climb.”

The series was funded by the Community Radio Fund of Canada and 99.3 County FM (Prince Edward County Radio Corporation).

Click here to listen live, stream or download at 993countyFM.ca

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  1. David Thomas says:

    If the promo video is any indication, this should be an excellent series. Thank-you to everyone involved for putting the work in to highlight this issue.

  2. SS says:

    Major kudos to County FM team for putting this together.

    This should be required watching for all elected officials, starting with each of our County councillors, our mayor, and our MPP, as well as the Premier and his cabinet.

    Please at least watch this intro video, but optimally follow and watch / listen to the whole series as it is rolled out.

    Thanks again, team.

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