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Citizenship

San Francisco's journalists join up for unprecedented coverage of homelessness

Michael Reiner

San Francisco's journalists are doing something unusual in the media world: they're coming together to blanket citizens with coverage of the city's homelessness problem. 

And they won't just be sharing stories and data--they'll also be proposing solutions. 

Generally, journalism steers clear of advocacy because it suggests bias and can undermine claims of neutrality. 

But homelessness has ballooned into a formidable issue for San Francisco, one that too many journalists--and their readers--confront on a daily basis, without seeing much done about it.

So on June 29th, 30 news organizations will release reports on homelessness. Leading up to the event, they'll share resources and content to make sure every participant has the best information to work with. And during the surrounding week, the most dedicated organizations will further cover the issue.

The point of this unprecedented coordination is to make sure residents are fully informed and to make it politically perilous for those in government to sidestep the issue. 

The San Francisco Chronicle and local radio and television station KQED will be leading the effort. 

There are around 6,000 homeless people living in San Francisco--people who are down on their luck, recovering from abuse, mentally ill, addicted to drugs or in some other circumstance. They live spurned in squalid camp sites strung along city streets. They roam, beg and yearn for basic necessities.

The proposed solutions will probably span the gamut--from building mental health institutions to providing homes to josb programs--and if all goes well, the sustained push will drive real change. 

This isn't the first time San Francisco's homelessness problem has come under scrutiny and it won't be the last. A few months ago, the city hosted the Super Bowl and the contrast of such an extravagant sports event with a human rights crisis seemed like an obscene disparity. 

Across the US, there is increasing awareness that something must be done to confront homelessness. 

As an earlier piece on Global Citizen described, "It is a crisis. A 2014 report found that there are around 600,000 homeless people in the US. Nearly 200,000 of the country's homeless are entirely unsheltered, close to 50,000 are veterans and 45,000 are unaccompanied children and youth. Los Angeles found that around one-third of their homeless population suffered from a form of mental illness, and another one-fifth were victims of domestic abuse. In other words, people who are most in need of specialized care are now among the world’s most vulnerable. Being homeless greatly lowers an individual’s life expectancy and jeopardizes their health, while greatly raising their chances of suffering violent assault. "

Homelessness is not an intractable problem. Solutions can be found. People just have to be made to feel the urgency. This collaboration by San Francisco's journalists could be the catalyst that gets cities everywhere to act.