Homelessness Radio Marathon

On February 17, Henry Ford College’s WHFR participated in the 18th annual national homelessness radio marathon to raise awareness of homelessness not just in the metro-Detroit area, but throughout the nation. The marathon lasted fourteen hours from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. It was organized by founder, Jeremy Weir Alderson. This year, the broadcast was held in Washington D.C., at the Brattleboro Baptist Church and Brattleboro Drop-in shelter. Homeless and housed alike marched through the city and showed their support. Hoping each step would move citizens in the right direction,, the mission this year was to get signatures for a HUD petition to get better treatment for the homeless. Volunteers served hot coffee and food to those who decided to brave the weather and participate.

As a preview of the event, WHFR had Jeremy Alderson as a special guest on its February 9 broadcast. WHFR was one of only two radio stations in Michigan that participated in the national Homelessness Marathon. The other station was Lansing Community College’s WLNZ. Radio stations in thirty-four states participated. The marathon included commentary by researchers, social workers, community leaders, and homeless people speaking on homeless issues. The marathon was not a fund-raiser, but instead focused on raising awareness and encouraging people to volunteer and help local and national efforts to help end homelessness.

In a February 22, 2016 editorial, “Don’t Forget Homeless in Detroit,” the Detroit News reported a steady decline in homeless in metro-Detroit. According to the Detroit News, the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND), which facilitates the homeless count in metro-Detroit, the total number of homeless people in 2014 was 15,700. That was a significant decrease from 2012, when the count was almost 20,000.

This year’s homeless count began in January and final results will be released in the spring. Mayor Duggan has made tackling homelessness a priority. As reported by the Detroit News, “The city and HAND are working with the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and of Veterans Affairs, particularly on ending homelessness among veterans.” Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press quotes Tasha Gray, Director of HAND, who credits a number of factors for reducing the number of homeless: “first, a strong push by the Obama administration for more than five years to end homelessness, starting with military veterans; and second, some welcome assistance for the last year from the City of Detroit. The city funded two extra teams of year-round social workers to find homeless folks on the street and entice them to receive mental-health care, drug-abuse counseling and housing assistance.” HAND hopes to reduce the homeless count by 15 percent this year and WHFR’s participation in the Homelessness Marathon will surely contribute to that goal.