My latest on-air/online story: Early, abnormal freezing weather means a story on my community’s homeless issue

This story is close to my heart after working with the homeless in downtown Wichita for 4.5 years as a para-professional sober coach, certified by the state of Kansas as a Kansas Certified Peer Mentor (KCPM). I absolutely love when my experience as a social worker (para) can intersect with my journalism experience to benefit my community and KFDI listening audience.

The story behind the story:

Our listeners enjoy being engaged with the community in a way they can help. When I moved here nine years ago, I quickly learned this city loves its charitable causes, possibly more than any other city in which I’ve lived.

I met RN Wanda Bough when we were mutually helping one of my clients. She used her professional position to help a client of mine get into treatment — which I was very grateful for. This is a partnership my former organization* struck up with ICT Street Team this year. (They only launched in December 2018). Wanda walked into my recovery center like magic on that day she helped my client — judgement-free with a heavy dose of “get it done.” No nonsense. Simple. Powerful. Kind. I’ll never forget what she did for that client that day.

I was not surprised. I first met up with ICT Street Team on a cold and windy day at the corner of 3rd and Topeka, outside St. John’s church. This is where they spent much of the year staged with a trailer and tents to perform thousands of dollars worth of street medicine — all funded by donation.

I went out there as a para, not a journalist.

I had it worked out in my mind that I was going to just do the Big Ask; I was going to ask that they help our clients with medications in order to remove that barrier to get into treatment. I expected some kind of pushback, naturally. But I received none. They were down! I ran back to my former organization so excited that next week with the news. I rambled so excitedly to my boss, who went to his boss…and before you knew it, we had a new community partner. The CEO and the ICT Street Team held the same client-focused beliefs; it was amazing. (Removing simple barriers to treatment, like medications, had been a struggle for years).

And so many homeless people have been helped since then.

Whenever I get the opportunity to highlight the important work ICT Street Team does, I take it. I was planning to interview Wanda this morning and I was so worried we’d end up having a snow event that would bury the story. (Severe weather is our jam). But not even a drop of sleet during my morning news anchor shift — so I got to run with the story! It didn’t get buried! I was so happy. Then someone who heard my story approached me to ask about making a donation to the homeless that’s been on their heart. Magic.

I’ve been meaning to spend more time highlighting the intersections between social work and journalism. So look for that — coming soon.

*I left social work in July 2019 to anchor mornings on KFDI.

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