Final Story Package: Homelessness in Gainesville

Here’s my final story package for Journalists’ Toolkit class, which includes a Soundslides and a map:

Screenshot of Homelessness in Gainesville Package

We had to Make a soundslides about an issue, and put some sort of data, either a Google Map, or a statistical chart made by Fusion Charts, to give some extra information about the subject.

At first I thought I can’t make this package and will lose all my credibility, because the people I initially talked to to help me get in touch with homeless people later didn’t return my calls or emails. I was missing the deadline, while we had about three weeks to work on this story. I started googling keywords related to homelessness and Gainesville, and I found out that there is a clinic in a church called Helping Hands Clinic that offers services to the homeless every Monday at 5pm.

I had 15 minutes to get there. So I drove like crazy to the place. I talked to the people working there and they agreed to let me interview them.

As I moved around the clinic, I started chatting with homeless people there. They were curious why I’m taking photos from the building. I asked them what they think about the clinic. As we were talking, I gradually changed the subject to what they thought about the condition of homeless people in Gainesville, if they have any complaints, and if they have any suggestions on how people like me can help.

People became more interested and talked more. Then I asked some of them if they are willing to help me to make the story. One man, Rick, gave me some good suggestions, but he refused to be interviewed. He said he’s tired of being interviewed by so many papers and students! I said I respect his decision, but gave him my number in case he changed his mind, or he was willing to help me.

I went to downtown plaza after the clinic, where many homeless people spend the night. One woman I met at the clinic said she will be waiting for me to be interviewed in the plaza, and surprisingly she was there. Other homeless people would stop by as I was talking to her, and I chatted with them as well, asked their opinions, and asked them how people like me can help them.

The day after that I went to downtown plaza again, where the Home Van, a mobile service that distributes free food and cloths for the homeless around the town was supposed to be. Surprisingly, I saw Rick there and he said I came to help you, because it’s not safe here and you need someone to show you around.

He later helped me go to the woods and talk to more people. I made friends with some more homeless people. We sat together and ate. I invited Rick for coffee. He knows photography and even gave me some suggestion on setting the ISO of my camera for taking photos at night. He asked me to take my photo at the clinic, and a homeless woman came and sat next to me to be in the photo.

helping hands

I interviewed 12 homeless people and two volunteers working at Helping Hands Clinic, and was left with 3 hours of interview that had to be cut short to two minutes! Well, I spent a lot of time editing the audio, and slept only few hours for three nights to finally come to the present version of the audio.

I wasn’t happy with the lighting of some of the photos, because they were taken at night. As I was reviewing Kobre’s photojournalism book’s chapter on issue stories, I noticed that the majority of photos on that chapter are black and white. I used Real Grain plugin in photoshop (download free trail here) to test how photos turn out in black and white. I realized the photos are much more powerful in black and white.

I am satisfied with the outcome. I think the time I spent was worth it. I owe most of my success to spending time to get to know the homeless people, make friends with them, and LISTEN to them.

So far I have recieved a lot of nice feedback from people who has seen the soundlsides. Now I can’t wait to take my laptop to downtown plaza and show the soundslides to my homeless friends and see what they think about it.

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2 comments so far

  1. That was excellent! It literally brought me to tears. I especially liked how it featured more than just the stereotypical homeless person. It was very humanizing — something that is sorely needed when so many stories just focus on the numbers.

    Bravo!

  2. Sanam on

    Thanks Meg. I really appreciate your feedback. I worked really hard on this story , so I’m glad to see it worked the way I wanted it to work. As you also said, I wanted to humanize the issue and avoid stereotypes, so I’m happy to hear you think I did so.


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