We recently heard someone suggest the media should “do something” about homelessness.
While the media in aggregate has some power, it’s not so powerful that it can find shelter for all the dispossessed in this country, just as it cannot slow climate change, eliminate poverty or stop wars. The media can only shed light on these problems and, perhaps, serve as a spur for others to take action, whether they are elected officials or concerned citizens.
Last year, this newspaper reported extensively on homelessness in Washington and Greene counties through a series of articles that looked at its impact on individuals, its causes and how it could be ameliorated. We also raised $23,000 that was distributed to agencies within the two counties that provide services for homeless individuals, and those who are at risk of falling into that state. A similar fund was established with the Washington County Community Foundation in conjunction with a yearlong series we are undertaking on Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating repercussions.
Our efforts with the series on homelessness were recognized last week in Washington, D.C. The Observer-Reporter was the recipient of the annual media award presented by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The nonprofit group gives the award to print reporters who take an in-depth look at homelessness and increase public understanding of the issue. The Observer-Reporter is proud to join such previous recipients as The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans and ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative website.
The series was also honored in two separate journalism contests within the state: The Keystone Press Awards and the awards presented by the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors group.
Though we take pride in the honors, it’s a story we wish we didn’t have to tell. In a country of such abundant wealth, that so many people – veterans, single parents, families, unemployed couples whose homes have been foreclosed, and on and on – have to struggle to attain shelter should be a source of reflection and a closer examination of our priorities.