InvestigateWest launches first collaboration with regional Patch sites

InvestigateWest is happy to announce the launch of its first collaboration with Patch, a network of online local news sites. A team of InvestigateWest reporters and photographers spent more than six months examining issues of family homelessness in Washington State. The resulting award-winning Generation Homeless project looked at family homelessness through the lens of young adults – one of the most under-recognized segments driving the surge in homeless families in Washington, as well as the impact of this trend on children and school systems around the state.

Joining us in localizing this effort even further is Patch, a network of online local news sites. Patch reporters and editors dug even deeper at the local level to see how this disturbing trend is playing out in school communities throughout King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Edmonds Patch, for example, drilled down to see how an underfunded federal mandate to provide transportation for homeless students is affecting the school district’s budget.

Enumclaw Patch looked at the difficulties schools face in tracking and identfying homeless familes in order to provide services.

Kirkland Patch looked at what it’s like for kids to be homeless on the East Side.

These and other stories to come this week demonstrate the power of linking investigative and community journalism. They take a big, nationwide issue, and show how it is hittng each of us, where we live.

Generation Homeless

About the Project

InvestigateWest’s “Generation Homeless” project was made possible by a fellowship from Seattle University. 

Reporter Carol Smith was a 2010 recipient of SU’s Center for Strategic Communications Family Homelessness Fellowship for independent public interest journalism focused on homelessness. Seattle University’s program was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There were six fellowships and eight scholarships awarded to journalists and students to pursue work on this topic.

Smith teamed with SU students Emily Holt and Cassandra Little, who interned on the project. Together, the IW team spent more than three months examining issues of family homelessness in Washington. Their multi-media series looks at family homelessness through the lens of young adults – one of the most under-recognized segments driving the surge in homeless families in this state, and at the impact of this trend on children, and school systems around the state.  IW’s multi-media report includes a 9-minute radio documentary, five-minute video piece, interactive data map, and distribution of written stories to multiple media partners, regionally and nationally for online and print publication.

Click on this link to hear Smith’s piece produced for news partner KUOW-FM. The piece was the focus of  KUOW’s talk show “The Conversation,” on Oct. 18 and was aired in the station’s news cycle all day on Oct. 19. The story was in the lead position on Oct. 18 story on Seattlepi.com. The story ran Tuesday, Oct. 19 as the lead story on AOLnews.com, where it drew a large readership.

Tony Torres, 22, managed kidney failure and weekly dialysis treatments while homeless for four years. He recently obtained temporary housing.

Generation Homeless: Young adults put new face on old problem

Shelters for young adults in King County are turning people away in record numbers as unemployment escalates and housing costs continue to be out of reach.

This surge in demand for shelter reveals a new face of homelessness, one fueled by the legacy of a failing foster care system and young people stranded by the crack epidemic of the late 1980s.

Tony Torres, 22, managed kidney failure and weekly dialysis treatments while homeless for four years. He recently obtained temporary housing. Photo by Mike Kane/InvestigateWest

Some of those young people are now having families of their own, and without resources, are winding up homeless. Families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. Yet the group driving this trend – young adults ages 18-24 – is generally under-counted and under-represented when solutions are envisioned. Relatively few resources are being directed to prevent them from producing new generations of homeless families.

One of the most disturbing legacies of homelessness is that it can be handed down from parent to child. Children who experience homelessness growing up are more likely to experience it as adults.

Casi Jackson is part of the problem, and part of the solution. At work at a homeless outreach center on Seattle’s Eastside, she shifts her daughter, Tiana, 7 months, on her hip and juggles a cell phone in her other hand while she fields a call from a scared-sounding mom with  no place to sleep tonight. Slender, with long curly hair, and an unflinching manner, Jackson is matter-of-fact on the phone, and sounds older than her 22 years.  She knows what it’s like to be staring down a night without shelter.

Homeless families are typically headed by young women with young children.