The Homelessness Marathon is one of the best annual grassroots radio events. The only unfortunate thing about the Marathon is that it continues to be necessary every year. It’s a 14-hour live broadcast from the streets of a different city each year, highlighting the causes, problems and experiences of homelessness. The most important aspect of the Marathon is that it features the unedited voices of people who are or have been homeless, in addition to featuring expert commentary.
This year the Marathon is broadcast from Pass Christian, Mississippi, which was effectively ground zero for Hurricane Katrina. Therefore the broadcast will be highlighting poverty in light of the continued effects of that massive natural disaster.
The Homelessness Marathon begins 7 PM EST this coming Monday, Feb. 23, and continues live until 9 AM the following morning. It can be heard on over 100 noncommercial stations around the US and online at their website. The first four hours will also be on Free Speech TV, which is available on Dish Network and numerous public access TV stations.
Unfortunately not a single station in the Chicago area is broadcasting the Marathon. I hope that I might be able to change that next year by arranging participation here at WNUR, where the mediageek radioshow originates. The station’s annual Phoneathon pledge drive was already scheduled for this week before I came on board as adviser, making it near impossible to try and have the station air it.
I participated in the broadcast of the 3rd Annual Homelessness Marathon in January, 2000, when it broadcast from the very cold winter streets of Champaign, IL, hosted by community radio WEFT. I worked pretty closely with Marathon director Jeremy Alderson for several weeks preparing, and he flat out amazed me with his commitment, passion and ability to spend 14 hours broadcasting outside in below-freezing weather with no more protection than most homeless people have. Despite being a small city, Champaign has a visible homeless population, and many folks came forward to take advantage of the open mic set up on the street to share their views and experiences of homelessness. Working on that broadcast is one of my radio experiences I’m most proud of.
A Homelessness Marathon is also being broadcast in Canada the same evening, coming from the streets of Montreal and hosted by Community Radio CKUT. It’s being broadcast on over 40 stations across Canada.