Homelessness Marathon

Bringing homeless voices to the airwaves

BARBARA STERNAL

This article is from the January/February 2007 issue of Dollars & Sense: The Magazine of Economic Justice available at http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2007/0107sternal.html


issue 269 cover

This article is from the January/February 2007 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

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Interviewed on a cold day in Portland, Maine, each member of a group of disabled veterans was in worse shape than the next. One had diabetes; another, gangrene; another faced encroaching blindness. They had all been declared "disabled" by government doctors and each received about $500 a month—not nearly enough to cover housing costs. Asked whether there was a government office where they could let someone know that their disability payment was not enough, they laughed out loud.

These veterans are among the many homeless people to whom the Homelessness Marathon, an annual overnight radio program, has given voice. Each year, in a different North American city, host and producer Jeremy Alderson (known by his on-air moniker, "Nobody") spends 14 hours in an outdoor broadcast booth, often in bitterly cold weather, interviewing homeless people and their advocates, in what has become the largest and longest-running national broadcast on the issue—and indeed on poverty in general.

Each hour of the program features experts and advocates as well as homeless people themselves, who either stop by the booth or call in using a national toll-free number to tell their stories. "They don't get many chances to be heard," Alderson says.

Part of the problem in combating homelessness is how stereotypes prevent people from helping. One caller commented, "There's just this perception that once you've been homeless you're a complete derelict." However, Alderson has found that most people are not so judgmental. "I've learned that there are vast numbers of people who understand how hard it is to get along in America today and who don't blame the poor for their own condition."

The 10th Annual Homelessness Marathon, originating in Fresno, Calif., will start at 4 p.m. PST on February 20th. Visit the marathon's website to find a station broadcasting it in your area, or for a link to streaming audio.

To support the project's aim of changing how homeless people are perceived, ask your local non-commercial radio station to carry the broadcast, or make a donation at the marathon's website.

For more information, visit www.homelessnessmarathon.org.

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