New arts group spreads word on rural homelessness

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A project that started with a creative writing competition hundreds of miles away in Lancashire, has found a new home in Oban.

When Sharon Wilkie-Jones, a former head of literacy at Bolton Sixth Form College, moved to Port Appin she wanted to keep raising awareness of homelessness and bring the SHARE project she started, with her.

Now she has found the project a new home and has started a creative arts group  at Hope Kitchen that meets every Tuesday from 2-4pm to keep spreading the word about those without a home of their own.

SHARE stood for Students Homelessness Awareness Raising Enterprise but has grown to include the much wider community since coming to Argyll.

The first writing project back in Lancashire in 2015 took on a life of its own and resulted in a book, supported by comedian Dave Spikey, raising more than £1,000 for a local charity.

A second book followed all about female homelessness, more and more interest was gained and the project grew, delving into other areas of homelessness that were sometimes off the radar such as in the  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

‘When I moved up here I wanted to bring the project with me but I wasn’t sure if it would work.  I  went to visit HOPE for a chat because I knew of the good work they do. We had a serious conversation. Homelessness here is very different to back in Rossendale but it is happening. Argyll is a big landscape with some serious pockets of poverty and rural homelessness.

‘There are people who are rough sleeping around Oban. You don’t tend to see them a lot but they are here, just hidden away. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds homeless in Argyll and Bute is quite high. It’s kids who are sofa-surfing, at least they are not out on the streets but they are still homeless. These people are entitled to support, they need access to resources that will help them. That’s something else we want to do.’

Share Argyll is the latest book published by the initiative in October and launched at HOPE. The book includes contributions from a whole host of people and their own experiences or perspectives on homelessness.

It follows other recent publications, including Homeless Jesus and Football tackling homelessness, the Share Argyll movement is already the proud sponsor of Lochgilphead Red Star AFC.

‘I didn’t want to replicate work we’ve already done in the South. I was looking for  something new and found it in SHAREHOPE,’ she said.

‘You don’t have to be a great writer to come along, or a great photographer. It’s far away from that. It’s just people interested in raising awareness about rural homelessness getting together in a friendly, inclusive grassroots community group,’ said Ms Wilkie-Jones who took the project to this year’s Bookends Festival in Benderloch.

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