There is an estimated 320,000 homeless people living in the UK. In the last year alone, homelessness increased by an overall 13,000, leaving every 1 in 200 people without a home. These appalling numbers are hard to ignore, especially when they are found in full display across the streets of the UK. Yet, the ever-present reality of homelessness seems to have only become white noise amid the spiraling rents and welfare cuts.
To stop homelessness from going unheard, Simon Community, a leading homelessness charity from Northern Ireland found an unconventional approach to turn the attention towards the issue. During Homelessness Awareness Week between 29th November and 6th December, a series of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) films using sounds often experienced by people forced to sleep outside was released on the global stage with the help of prominent ASMR artists.
ASMR – The relaxing sound of rain
ASMR – The crunching sound of a plastic bag
Speaking about the concept of the campaign, Ciarán Corr, Communications Manager at Simon Community highlighted: “Winter is a key period for all homelessness charities as people’s empathy towards those without homes increases. Keen to have our voice heard during the season, we partnered with Ogilvy to think differently about homelessness and reach out to new audiences with a concept that challenges.”
A platform for homelessness
Using their social media platforms, YouTube celebrities such as WhisperRed ASMR, ASMR with Sasha, ASMR Soap Queen and many more rallied with the cause and urged their followers to consider homelessness from a different perspective. Their combined influence reached millions on the launch day, sending the message of homelessness loud and clear.
Corr further commented: “ASMR’s popularity has experienced an exponential growth of late, with the music of Billie Eilish and the endorsements of Jake Gyllenhaal, Gigi Hadid and Cardi B resulting in millions of online video views for a trend that has firmly cemented itself as part of popular culture. This Winter, Simon Community will deliver the charity’s message to an international stage by becoming part of this YouTube and social media phenomenon.”
Harnessing the power of ASMR
During Homelessness Awareness Week, the power of ASMR came to a different significance. While on most nights ASMR films are merely a popular sleep aid, on homelessness awareness week, they kept viewers awake with the disturbing truth about how the sounds used for relaxation can be the same sounds that keep homeless people awake at night. As ASMR videos are usually enjoyed from the comfort of homes, the series hopes to strike empathy towards those who don’t have a safe and secure place to sleep in. With this shocking contrast, the films help raise awareness about the dire circumstances of those experiencing homelessness and urges people to help them fight the issue in Northern Ireland where over an 18-month period, 205 people died while homeless.
Speaking about the awareness initiative, Jim Dennison, Chief Executive at Simon Community NI said: “After supporting the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s homelessness deaths project and discovering the number of victims in Northern Ireland, our charity has become committed to raising awareness on a local and global stage. I meet with clients on a regular basis who because of different circumstances have had to sleep outside, in their car or in derelict buildings and it has long-lasting impacts on a person’s mental and physical well-being. While homelessness spirals further out of control, our hope is that this innovative film series will use sound to make noise!”
Why we need to start listening
With homelessness set to be on the rise across the UK, initiatives become important in calling attention to the vulnerable in society and fighting homelessness.
Dennison further added: “Moving speedily into 2020, Northern Ireland faces the very real prospect of no functioning Stormont, MPs distracted by Leave Vs Remain arguments and no decisions being made on the continuation of Welfare Mitigation – a vital safety net for vulnerable people living on the breadline. On the horizon, we are predicting a rise in poverty with more people spiraling into homelessness, addictions and worsened mental health.”
To fight homelessness, please kindly share the films and help make noise for homelessness.
Photo is a screen shot from the ASMR video – The crunching sound of a plastic bag
Guest Author Bio
Jim Dennison has been Chief Executive of the Simon Community NI since January 2014. Prior to this, Jim was Head of Operations at the Chartered Institute of Housing – a professional membership body supporting those who work in housing and homelessness. He holds an Honours Degree in Politics from the Queen’s University of Belfast and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Regional and Local Development from the Dublin Institute of Technology.