WUOT Series Looks at Homelessness

 

In any given month, more than 1,600 people in Knox County find themselves without a home. And each one of them has a rich, complex story to tell.

"The Other Side of the Street" is a new series depicting the human side of this pressing social issue. The series will air on public radio WUOT 91.9 FM, which broadcasts from UT.

The Other Side of the StreetWUOT News Director Matt Shafer Powell and Knoxville photographer David Habercom have collaborated on the eight-week series, which begins on Wednesday, Nov. 7. It will run at 5:35 a.m., 7:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. every Wednesday through the end of 2007. Each segment will feature three different people, detailing their lives on the street.

Segments will run twice during NPR’s popular news program "Morning Edition" and be repeated during the evening "All Things Considered."

Habercom’s photographs will appear on WUOT’s Web site, http://wuot.org/.

"This type of program allows us to experience the human side of homelessness," Powell said. "So often, we view the homeless from a distance. As a result, we fail to recognize their humanity, that they’re people who share some of the same hopes, dreams and fears as the rest of us."

"The Other Side of the Street" was Habercom’s brainchild. For years, his powerful portraits of the homeless have illuminated those people who live on the fringes of Knox County society.

Habercom said he envisions a gallery exhibit in which visitors could see the faces of the homeless, up close, in a dignified setting. At the same time, they could hear the voices of these people talking about their lives. He approached Powell about a collaboration, and Powell jumped at the chance.

The two set up a temporary recording studio in Habercom’s Gay Street portrait studio. Habercom recruits subjects across the street at the Volunteer Ministry Center and brings them to his studio for a portrait sitting.

Habercom said he photographs the homeless people just as they come to him; he doesn’t supply them with clean clothes, makeup or hairstyling. When he takes the photographs, however, he treats each homeless person just as he would a doctor or lawyer paying for a professional portrait. The resulting photos are dignified and beautiful.

"The power resides in the tension between what we expect to see and what we actually see," Habercom said.

Although the radio program begins running in November, Habercom said there’s no planned release date for the exhibit.

UT’s Ready for the World initiative is providing promotional assistance for the radio program. The goal of "Ready for the World: The International and Intercultural Awareness Initiative" is to transform the campus culture into one with the diversity that can best prepare students for working and competing in the 21st century.

More information about Ready for the World can be found at http://www.utk.edu/readyfortheworld/.

Listener-supported WUOT 91.9 FM is a 100,000-watt station broadcasting from UT Knoxville. Qualified by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, WUOT is a member of National Public Radio, and a Public Radio International affiliate. The station’s primary format is classical and jazz music, news and public affairs. WUOT serves listeners throughout East Tennessee as well as parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and streams on the Web at http://wuot.org.

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