Each student journalist put down a reflection on the events of the day
I enjoyed my time at the St. Vincent De Paul Society food bank. This isn’t the first time that I have visited a food kitchen and talked to people there. From freshman year to senior year of high school, I volunteered in a soup kitchen in Rhode Island. There were many times I would talk to clients about their hardships. This past experience reminded me of my times at my food kitchen. You truly feel how lucky you are by walking through these types of places. You quickly realize that not being able to go to a baseball game or not being able to get the latest XBOX game is not the end of the world. I am truly grateful for being able to visit such a place like St. Vincent de Paul.
During the visit to St. Vincent, my opinion and idea of things kind of changed. Most of the homeless people there are nice people, but they have just had a run of pretty bad luck. Most are kind-hearted individuals who are willing to work for whatever they can, it’s just that the economy’s bad and that they’re also disadvantaged in some way. None of them are homeless just because they choose to be; it’s just that they have no other choice at the moment. They all have some kind of background that has shaped each and every one of them up until the time they became homeless.
During our trip to St. Vincent, I was overwhelmed by how much support the organization had for everyone, especially since less fortunate individuals may not have a place to go to for the holidays. My assignment for this project was to capture the evening in photos. I was able to show people the emotions and interviews that our SPJ members conducted to learn more about the clients. Along with lunch, I photographed about 20 barbers giving people haircuts and Santa and Mrs. Claus handing out gifts to young children. This was an amazing evening and I was so fortunate to have taken these photos of an aspect of our society that many do not get to see.
Going to St. Vincent was an incredible opportunity. I was extremely nervous and worried I would only be a bother to the men and women attempting to eat their meal in peace. I thankfully came across a kind man who was very willing to share his life experiences with me. He told me anything and everything I wanted to know, which allowed me to put my journalistic skills to the test. While I was talking with this man, another man sat at our table and piped in. I knew he was eager to tell me his story as well. His story was surreal. I could not believe what he had to say and how easy going he was about it. I though to myself, “This can’t be real, he has to be lying,” but he never said “um.” His face was serious, and he did not pause. He seemed real and stuck and this is why I felt sorry for him. Most of the people there also seemed stuck, unable to get out because of an injury or waiting for government benefits. Going there today reminded me how thankful I am for my life and my ability to be the one writing about their stories and giving them a voice, instead of being one of them and feeling silent.
St. Vincent continues to open my eyes and heart. As this is my second year doing the project with SPJ, things ran more smoothly. The stories I heard were not what I would think of as a typical “what lead me to homelessness” story; the way the clients spoke was more of things happened but that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all situation that they had to be in. I couldn’t help but smile as their outlook on life was not negative, but very positive and hopeful for the future. I’m graduating this semester, and I was initially depressed at the job market that I will be entering. After talking to these people, though, I realized that I am still lucky to have food on my table, a bed to sleep in and a roof constantly over my head – and they were still positive if they lacked these things. It really does put your life in perspective.
I joined SPJ as a freshman, eager to jump into the field of journalism. On three separate occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the group at St. Vincent. Every time has been different, and resoundingly beneficial. As a journalist, I feel as though you shouldn’t leave any source untapped, as difficult as it may be to interview some of them. The homeless community in downtown Phoenix is often regarded as “dirty” or “hopeless” but if people took the time to listen to their stories, they’d likely be surprised. I’ve been humbled listening to people struggle, persevere and, sometimes, come out on top. Being that it’s my senior year, I am somewhat sad I won’t be able to return with the group, but will keep perusing any and all types of stories in my career.
As a veteran of the Homeless =/= Voiceless project and planner of the logistics this year, I was not expecting to be overly moved. I thought I had been exposed to all the heartbreak, bad luck and bad choices of homeless people in years past. However, a major life event from this past week changed everything, made my nerves raw and made me extremely anxious to interview clients. My mom was laid off from her job of 31 years on Thursday, wrecking havoc on my sense of economic security. It was hard to put that out of my mind as I interviewed these people, because most of their stories began with unemployment. While my situation will likely never be as bad, I couldn’t help but feel connected to these people and their stories. It made me numb, but not numb from lack of emotion, but of shock and sadness.
St. Vincent’s was more than a media project, or learning experience: It was a humbling experience. I had no idea what the day would be like. I even feared that I would feel like an intruder. After summoning up my courage, I became anxious as we arrived. Once I saw everyone in line to get his or her meals, however, I found myself nervous. My nerves soon disappeared after I interviewed my first subject and soon I forgot how nervous and scared I was after talking with my first subject. By the time I interviewed my second subject, I found myself at ease and soon learned that I was not just talking to interview subjects, but to real people with real life stories.
When I walked through the doors of St. Vincent, I was excited and anxious for what I was about to encounter. This was my second year participating in SPJ’s Homeless =/= Voiceless project and I hoped this experience would be just as insightful as last year’s. Although I am sometimes hesitant to approach client, I know that many of the individuals have amazing stories to tell. Many are more than willing to share their past and help SPJ break the stigma attached to homelessness. I had the opportunity to talk with a variety of diverse individuals whose stories were intriguing. Hopefully our reflections on these interesting individuals will serve as an interest to the community and give a voice to the clients of St. Vincent.