by Joseph Perrelli
The Annual Homelessness Radio Marathon came to Cleveland on Thursday, February 12, just two days before the start of the Stand Down that weekend. The marathon ran on radio stations throughout the country for 14 hours, starting at 7pm. Locally, the marathon was broadcast on WRUW 91.1 FM - the radio station of CWRU.
Homeless people and friends of the homeless community throughout the country called in on the toll-free hotline to share their experiences with homelessness.
At St. Malachi’s Center on the near West side, a crowd of homeless individuals from the local community gathered to enjoy a hot meal, coffee, and sweets being served throughout the night and to grab a cot during the radio show. Those in attendance were grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the marathon and took pleasure in the sense of community at St. Malachi’s.
Many of those in attendence posed questions and made comments on topics ranging from homelessness in literature to the environmental effects of homelessness. Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich even stopped in to say a few words before his appearance on the Tonight Show.
Because the radio marathon was open to participants throughout the country, the calls that came in presented a picture of homelessness and views on the issue from different regions. This brought in calls that were understanding about homelessness and calls that were a bit more caustic about the situation that many people face.
The Homelessness Marathon started as an offshoot of a radio program on NPR- affiliated WEOS in Geneva, NY back in 1998. Jeremy Weir Alderson, the program’s founder, knows that “homelessness continues to be a silent issue, and [that] we will do whatever it takes to give homeless people a voice”. This is a valuable asset to the homeless community, and is recognized by advocates on a large scale. The 14-hour radio broadcast — the longest regularly scheduled public affairs program in America — is “the most significant media event focusing on homelessness and poverty” according to Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
We were very fortunate to have the radio marathon take place here in Cleveland this year and will follow it on the rest of its journey through the US. For more information on the Homelessness Marathon and highlights from the broadcast at St. Malachi’s, visit www.homelessnessmarathon.org.
Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2004.