Awareness-raisng special programming on homelessness on WFHB. 7p-9a.

February 17th, 2008  |  Published in Lets Go

From a WFHB press release:

Bloomington Community Radio pre-empts normal programming for national special on homelessness

On Wednesday, February 20 and Thursday, February 21, Bloomington’s community radio station will once again unite listeners with people all across the country to raise awareness of the defining social justice issue of our time.  WFHB is one of more than 120 independent radio stations carrying the National Homelessness Marathon, a 14-hour live broadcast featuring the voices and stories of homeless people from around the U.S.  WFHB will air the entire fourteen-hour program, currently in its eleventh year, starting at 7pm on Wednesday and ending at 9am on Thursday, when the station returns to its regularly-scheduled programming.  This year is extra-special because the national broadcast will feature a segment produced by WFHB News Director Chad Carrothers.

“We slept out in a tent in the middle of winter, so that was kind of rough…we had like fifty blankets it seemed like and we were still cold…tryin’ to fight, we gotta figure out something, and I remember saying we gotta find something because we can’t be out here forever”

– 22-year-old Josh Morales, Shalom Center client

Josh and his father Abraham are featured in WFHB’s special segment “Father and Son: Generational Homelessness”, exploring how being homeless together has bonded them in a way that transcends typical father-son relationships.

As a local lead-in to the National Homelessness Marathon, WFHB will air an hour of locally-produced programming on these issues, including a feature-length interview with the Morales father-son team and a rebroadcast of the recent memorial service for the people who died homeless on our streets this past year.  Airing from 6-7pm on Feb. 20, the local programming will include Joel Rekas, director of Bloomington’s Shalom Center, a day facility for local people struggling with poverty and homelessness.

“It’s unacceptable in a country like the United States that this continues to be an issue”, says Rekas.  “We’re twenty years out now from this being identified as a major social issue, and unfortunately for most of us, a walk downtown in a big city involves stepping over people on the sidewalk and lying on park benches and we don’t blink an eye.  Folks experiencing homelessness have really become part of the urban landscape.”

There are approximately 4,000 homeless individuals and families living in poverty right now in the Bloomington area, according to Rekas.  That’s just one reason why WFHB News Director Chad Carrothers channels significant volunteer effort into local coverage of the issue.

“The best way to understand someone is to really listen to what they have to say,” Carrothers opines.  “Radio can be a very personal and intimate experience.  The stories told to me by people living on the streets of my town leave the mike wobbling in my hand.  The stark reality is overpowering.”

While WFHB News regularly produces its own stories and special features on homelessness, being a part of a national broadcast is a unique opportunity to bring different communities together.  The Eleventh Annual Homelessness Marathon will originate from Nashville, Tennessee.  It will be hosted by Nashville’s community radio station WRFN and a committee of activists on poverty and housing issues.

“As the Marathon has grown, its philosophy has evolved. When I started, I thought I had to scold people and tell them why they ought to care,” confesses the Homelessness Marathon’s director, Jeremy Weir Alderson.  “But now I know that Americans really do care, and that no matter how grave the failings of our society may be, homeless people aren’t on the streets because that’s where we, as a people, want them to be.  I now mostly look at the Marathon as giving people the reasons for what they already know in their hearts.”

The Homelessness Marathon isn’t a fundraiser; there isn’t a single pitch to donate a dime to anyone.  Instead it’s what Carrothers calls an “awareness raiser”:

“There’s no 800 number, there’s no slick ads for donations.  These are real people talking about what life is like for them.  They don’t want your money, they want to be understood.  They want you to think about how your life is different from theirs, but also how it’s similar.  They want your humanity.”

This special programming will air February 20th and 21st from 7pm to 9am on Indiana’s original community radio station, WFHB 91.3/98.1/100.7/106.3 FM and live on the web at www.wfhb.org.  More information is available by contacting News Director Chad Carrothers at news@wfhb.org or by calling (812) 337-7827.  Additional information about the Homelessness Marathon can be found at www.homelessnessmarathon.org.