Homelessness, Addiction, Immigration: On The Pressing Social Issues For All Americans

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A man who is homeless takes advantage of the warm air coming from a sidewalk vent to stay warm in downtown Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
A man who is homeless takes advantage of the warm air coming from a sidewalk vent to stay warm in downtown Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

With David Folkenflik

Child marriage, drug addiction, incarceration. Inside the stories of ordinary folks in the throes of life's toughest challenges.


Terrence McCoy, Washington Post reporter who covers social issues across the country. Winner of the 2019 Meyer "Mike" Berger Award for his "outstanding human interest reporting" following his "richly drawn portrait of Americans in vexing political and social issues of our day." Author of "The Playground." (@terrence_mccoy)

Laura Calderwood, whose daughter, Mollie Tibbetts, was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in 2018.

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "Trump used her slain daughter to rail against illegal immigration. She chose a different path." — "The letters began immediately. Dozens at first, then hundreds, each day bringing more: from a Texas man telling her this was why we needed to build the wall. From a New York television producer asking for an interview. From an elderly woman despairing 'this divided America in which we now live.' Nearly every day since her daughter’s body was found, she had opened the mailbox, then sat and read them, because that was her routine, that was how she tried to make sense of something so senseless. But now the mailbox was empty for the first time, and she had a new routine.

"Laura Calderwood, whose daughter, Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant and left to rot in a cornfield this past summer, closed the mailbox, walked up the steps to her house and turned on the stove. It was getting on toward 6, and she needed to get dinner going. The boys would be hungry."

Washington Post: "‘I don’t know how you got this way’" — "What Kam was doing, and what he wasn’t, had come to dominate so much in their lives. He was two years out of high school now, and he didn’t have a job, or a car, or a place of his own, or much money beyond what his mother gave him — nothing at all to occupy his time except a computer that had carried him to the most extreme parts of the Internet, and to beliefs that no one in his family could understand. In the year since the 2016 presidential election, Kam had gone from supporting white supremacists, to joining a neo-Nazi group, to shouting 'white lives matter' at a rally, to standing beside Richard Spencer outside the White House, to increasingly tense conversations with his mother and grandmother, both of whom were beginning to fear that what they had once thought was just a phase was quickly becoming his life.

"How did this happen?

"Where did these ideas come from?

"Could he still be saved?"

Washington Post: "‘This is not me’" — "Before 10 a.m. on another cold Thursday, Monica Diaz stirred in her tent, filled with dread. It had been two weeks since the last cleanup, and city workers would again be here soon, with their dumpster truck and police cars, to clear out the encampment. Every morning was awful, but these were the worst of all, when Monica, who’d otherwise be resting before work, was forced to confront publicly what she did her best to hide: that she’s homeless. That she lives in a tent. That she just turned 40, and that this is somehow her life.

"'You ready?' Monica asked her husband, after a sleepless night at the base of Union Station, near CNN’s Washington bureau, where the noise never stopped and they’d huddled together with their dog, Sassy, against the cold.

"'Somewhat,' said Pete Etheridge, 31, sighing.

"They looked around their tent, which not only held the sum total of their world but also reflected a way of life that has, over the past decade, fundamentally changed the face of American homelessness. As housing costs climb ever higher in booming urban areas, the significant growth in tent encampments nationwide has become one of the most visible signs of the nation’s failure to alleviate widening inequality. In Orange County, Calif., more than 700 people were cleared out of a tent city along the Santa Ana River last year after thousands signed a petition and Anaheim declared a state of emergency. Seattle, meanwhile, has allowed some tent cities to operate as de facto communities — long-term, regulated, even with phone numbers and addresses. And in the District, the number of encampment cleanups has surged, according to city data, rising from 29 in 2015 to 100 in 2018."


Washington Post: "‘We’re human beings!’ the homeless woman yelled. ‘Acknowledge us!’ Then people did — in a way she didn’t expect." — "The city didn’t seem to be doing enough. Neither were the nonprofit groups. But maybe she — as nothing more than another human who cared — could accomplish what they couldn’t. Maybe she could get this couple out of a tent where they’d lived for more than two years, at the base of Union Station, and into housing.

"When The Washington Post published a profile Friday of Monica Diaz, a fast-food restaurant employee simultaneously navigating the homeless and working worlds, Howard University law student Gabriela Sevilla immediately got to work.

"She organized efforts to assist Diaz and her husband, Pete Etheridge, launching a GoFundMe campaign that started out small — but rapidly grew — and committing hours every day to getting them off the streets. Within a week, the fund raised more than $22,000, and the couple that Sevilla set out to help are on the verge of housing, either through a city program or by finding an apartment on their own."

Madeleine D'Angelo produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on April 16, 2019.



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