Posts Tagged ‘Will Write for Food’

By: Jinna Marbry

As I work to get back into my regular routine of school, work and motherhood, I still see visions in mind that ache to pour out in words. This is one of those stories.

I will never forget the first time I saw Michael. He looked withered and scruffy. His wiry hair was long with a bright red bandana wrapped around his head to protect him from the blazing Florida sun. He smelled strongly of alcohol and cigarettes. As we stood in line patiently waiting for dinner, Michael told me it was the first time he had come to the COSAC shelter; he came because he heard the food was good. Like others, Michael’s focus was quickly distracted by the sweet smell of garlic and tomato sauce permeating the dining room. I slightly chuckled to myself when he slowly maneuvered his way ahead of me in line as if he was worried they might run out of food. I guess when you make the streets your home, there is a constantly reality that there is never enough. Worse, what there is can quickly be taken from you.

Michael boastfully told me how he was a Master Electrician but had been out of work due to the economy and drop in the construction market. He was proud of his skills, but no longer had a job to use them at and after a few months found him no longer able to pay his rent.

Just as we were edging to the front of the line, Michael spotted another homeless friend from the streets abandoning his inside voice, he bellowed a boisterous “Hello” to the gentleman. At times Michael swayed slowly from side to side, I suspect in part to the alcohol, ever the while his voice getting louder as he talked to those around him. Abruptly, Michael stopped still in his tracks, someone caught his eye.

“Who is that?” Michael pointedly asked. I replied that the gentleman he was pointing to was Sean Cononie, director and founder of the COSAC shelter. “Really!” Michael replied. “I have never met him before.” As I looked at Michael’s face I fought to hold back my own tears. Michael, this bold, loud, gruff gentleman from the streets was starting to cry. Michael quickly abandoned his cherished place in line to go shake hands and greet Sean.

As I went about my way, I waved a quick goodbye to Michael as he sat down to his awaited meal, smiling from ear to ear because he had met a hero in his world, Sean Cononie.

Watch the Will Write for Food staff tell you their experiences from their Labor Day Homeless Voice takeover.

In April, 2009, when the first Will Write for Food program took over the COSAC shelter in Hollywood, COSAC residents Shawn Anderson and Crystal Vogelsang got married. Since then, resident and Minister Ronald Simmons gives an update on the “happy couple.”

By: Andrew Pantazi

We’re on deadline, and I, being the best journalist at the event, have finished my stories, so I’ve been tasked with writing a blog post.

It’s Sunday night, and I’m working with 23 other college students and advisors in a tight-quartered, 10 foot by 60 foot room with an incessant din of random editing tips. There’s something religious about the way 21 people who come from varied colleges such as community colleges, universities and some place in Colorado. (What is the University of Northern Colorado, anyway?) We come from newspapers as controversy stricken as FAU’s University Press and as large as UF’s The Independent Florida Alligator (largest in the nation).

And just when it seemed our cliché of a newsroom couldn’t get worse, our air conditioning doesn’t work right. The 80-freakin’-degree heat and sweaty humidity remind us that we’re in south Florida.

But it’s cool (pun alert) because we’ve met dozens of homeless people. We’ve learned to discern the difference between fact and schizophrenia. (By the way, we met the king of Antarctica). And we’ve sympathized with the dozens of men and women living in dorm-sized rooms.

While our teamwork can sometimes look like a newspaper version of the ever-so-fun-to-insult, split-personality, Miley Cyrus, that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other.

We even have a half-Iranian journalist and an Israeli-born journalist who seem to love each other just fine, despite what Faux News tells us.

But such love doesn’t just happen. There is a glue that keeps this haphazard “Odd Couple”-esque family of journalists together. Me.

I don’t check AP Stylebook. AP Stylebook asks me what AP style should be.

Here, at the end of the day, we’re finishing up our editing, our designing and our coffee-gulping.

I know that I’m excited for tomorrow.

So far today, half a dozen students have visited another shelter, followed a vendor on a street corner, or posed as a homeless person.

Others have interviewed shelter founder/director Sean Cononie, long-term resident Johnny McCormick, or former European basketball player Horace Brawley. They’ve talked to prostitutes, amputees, mentally challenged, physically impaired, and suicidal lesbians.

With copy slowly coming in on Sunday afternoon, Art Director Stephanie Colaianni is starting to lay out cover page options for the October, 2010 issue. The book is set for a minimum of 16 pages. An Outreach mission – where the shelter medical staff go out in search of homeless on the street – is set for Sunday evening. The Outreach volunteers – a nurse practitioner and a police officer – go in search of homeless living on the street and give them food, cigarettes, or medical supplies out of an ambulance that belongs to COSAC.

On Labor Day weekend, 18 college journalists from across the country took over the Homeless Voice at the Coalition of Service and Charity (COSAC), a private homeless shelter in Hollywood, Fla. While most of the students traveled from across Florida, senior Catherine Meyer came from the University of Northern Colorado and Jinna Marbry is a senior from Kennesaw State in Georgia.

On Saturday evening, the students ate dinner with residents and visitors and toured the 14 year-old shelter. On Sunday morning, they scattered across the shelter scouring sources with audio recorders, Flip Video camcorders, and good old-fashioned notebooks. Off to the races!