Cover Letter

Every member of our team wore multiple hats in our attempt to deliver a compelling story about homeless services in downtown Saint Louis. I felt most comfortable–and thus contributed most effectively–acting as a producer, booker, writer, and sound editor.

My role as a producer began during week 1 of the course–before work on the story officially began. I found the seed of this story scanning through entries in Humans of Saint Louis: a photoblog that highlights a different person each week. One man described sleeping at New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC), and I knew I wanted to hear more about this space. Over the next five weeks, I read almost every article written about NLEC. I compiled lists of people to interview and prepared for those interviews by doing more background research and by preparing questions. Finally, I cut those hours of interviews down to mere minutes by looking for the moments that moved me or simply moved the story forward.

As a booker, I was extremely persistent and effectively moved from connection to connection. For example, I asked Mo Costello (founder of Mokabe’s coffeeshop and Winter Outreach) for an interview over Facebook. She was out of town, but she put me in contact with the other founder of Winter Outreach: Teka Childress. This interview provided our group with a powerful story, which became our podcast’s lede. Teka also invited us to a Pastor’s Lunch where the Reverend Larry Rice (the founder of NLEC and the central character of our story) was hosting a protest against Board Bill 66. We introduced ourselves to Rev. Rice, and he kindly granted us a formal interview.

As a writer, I composed a draft of our script’s introduction. Our group then improved upon the script through a process of improvisation. Together, we went through a demanding but worthwhile process of writing, recording, re-writing, and re-recording. Ultimately, I think this process resulted in a script that is both concise and directed yet also intended for the ear.

Finally, I spent a considerable amount of time becoming familiar with Audacity as a sound editor. I cut and spliced large amounts audio, altered sounds using Audacity’s effects, layered in music and ambient sounds, scaled back on these sounds to achieve more subtle effects, repaired the sound quality of interviews, and more.

I intended this website to be read as a chronological blog. The following entry is the combination of my work logs: weekly updates I sent to my professor regarding the state of the project. The rest of the entries, labelled “appendixes,” are actual work products that I produced either myself or in collaboration with my team. These include clips of audio that I edited together, notes from interviews and other forms of research, an interactive map of Saint Louis shelters, and a photograph of an epic whiteboard session. These appendixes are in reverse chronological order, meaning the newest work products are at the top. If you want to see the project come together, I would recommend starting with the oldest post at the beginning of this blog.

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Work Logs

July 10, 2016 (Week 2)

After the group settled on our topic (the Bridge Outreach Shelter’s closing), I researched as many secondary articles as I could find. My team members subsequently found more articles, and I read them all. Thus, I not only have an informed understanding of the subject but also know of the usual angles taken by Saint Louis reporters.

On July 6, Nick Borella and I conducted a pre-interview with Tom Burnham, Program Director of Peter and Paul’s Community Services and founding member of the Bridge. I wrote a log of this interview and highlighted important points that we should expand upon during the formal interview, which I will attend along with my other group members tomorrow evening.

I contacted Mo Costello (owner of Mokabe’s coffee shop and prominent homeless rights advocate) who may not have time to be interviewed, but she placed me in contact with Teka Childress (founder of Winter Outreach). Teka Childress has agreed to be interviewed (date pending). I also sent an email to Chad Rulio (former interim Executive Director of the Bridge) and Eddie Roth (Director of Human Services) asking to schedule an interview. I will follow up on this request next week if I don’t hear anything back.

Overall, I still have a lot of work to do scheduling key interviews, but I think we will have some good audio to work with shortly.

July 17, 2016 (Week 3)

On Monday, July 7, I helped conduct an interview with Tom Burnham at the Peter and Paul Community Center, because the group agreed he is an informed and engaging source of background knowledge regarding Saint Louis’s homeless population. To prep for this interview, I compiled a list of basic facts related to our story and drafted a set of general talking points. Under each general point, I included specific questions. I shared this document with the rest of my team and received their input, which gave us a general plan for gathering useful actualities.

Because Tom wanted to hold the interview in an echoey room with a large fan in the background, I wanted to make sure this tape was usable. I spent a few hours the next day experimenting with Audacity’s effects to successfully normalize the audio and reduce the noise of the fan.

During our storyboard workshop, the group agreed that we could not proceed much further without gathering some stories from individuals who are homeless in Saint Louis. We currently see a number of ways to frame the closing of Bridge Outreach, so our final direction will be determined by whatever happen to be the most interesting stories we get on tape. Thus, I called the owner of Bridge Bread (a local bakery recently affiliated with the Bridge) at Amelie’s suggestion. The owner, Fred Domke, confirmed that three of his bakers have recently stayed at the Bridge and invited us to bake with them. We think this will give us some unique audio, but we may need to schedule another one-on-one interview if someone’s story seems especially moving.

Finally, on Saturday morning, I helped conduct an interview with Teka Childress and her associates from Winter Outreach. We held this interview because Winter Outreach works in the downtown area, and we wanted their perspective on how the closing of Bridge has impacted people’s access to services.

I believe that I will spend next week tracking down more interviews and audio, but we should be ready to jump into the editing process the following week.

July 24, 2016 (Week 4)

On Wednesday, I visited the Compton Missionary Baptist Church. Men who stayed at Bridge Outreach during the day are transported to this temporary shelter each morning. I attempted to schedule a tour of this facility over the phone, but I never received a response. Thus, I spoke with Sarge (the man running the shelter) in person. He asked me to follow up with his supervisor, Angela Morris. She agreed to schedule interviews with the shelter’s clients, but I have yet to hear an update. I will follow up with her on Monday morning.

On Thursday, I attended a meeting held by the Reverend Larry Rice regarding Board Bill 66 and the future of New Life Evangelistic Center. Our goal was to collect some potentially usable audio (which we did) and to schedule an interview with Larry Rice. We scheduled the interview for 11:30 on Monday. We will record our tour of New Life facilities and ask Larry about the effect of the city’s policies on the downtown homeless population. We will also interview people who stay at the shelter.

Nick and I planned to walk from Christ Cathedral to New Life on Saturday to interview those who are staying on the streets. We planned to record ambient street music, and we hoped to collect audio from the park on 14th and Olive because this location has come up during multiple interviews. We planned to interview residents of the nearby condos, the homeless who frequent the park, and even the police officers who monitor the area. However, this seemed like a bad day to collect street interviews because of the heat index. We will have to push this to week 5, which will make this next week especially busy and crucial if we are to stay on schedule.

July 31, 2016 (Week 5)

On Monday, I helped record interviews with Larry Rice, Larry Rice’s assistant (Dulce), and a case worker at New Life Evangelistic Center. This was the most important day of interviews because NLEC is the last remaining emergency shelter in downtown Saint Louis, and Larry’s tense history with the city may soon lead to its closing. I also wrote the first draft of the group’s production plan so we could maximize our efforts during week 5. Finally, I spoke with the Secretary of the Board of Public Services to request a copy of the neighbors’ petition against New Life Evangelistic Center.

On Tuesday, I listened to the interviews and pulled important actualities. Larry Rice’s interview was so compelling that the group decided to frame the entire podcast around NLEC. Thus, I helped the group rewrite our storyboard, which is now about one organization’s efforts to stay downtown as the neighborhood’s last remaining emergency shelter in the face of opposition from neighbors and city leaders.

On Wednesday, I drafted a script of the story’s lede. The group recorded this script on Thursday. On Friday, I conducted more research and found a copy of the BPS summary of “Fact, Conclusions of Law, Decisions, and Order,” from December 2004, regarding the decision to enforce New Life’s permit. On Saturday, I edited Nick Borella’s script for the following section of the story (i.e., the history of homeless services in Saint Louis up to the Bridge’s closing), recorded the audio, and began editing this material together in Audacity.

Today, I found a recording of the Board of Public Service’s decision to enforce New Life Evangelistic Center’s permit. This recording will provide valuable audio (for example, protesters chanting “homeless lives matter.”) I pulled additional audio to fill out our storyboard, including audio from New Life’s television network: Channel 24.

After a very productive week, our group expects to have a full, recorded draft of the story by next Tuesday.

Appendix 16: ‘Cheers’ Sound Effect

I spliced the Cheers themesong  into Tom Burnham’s discussion of the early days of the Continuum of Care. The general feedback was that this could be done more subtly. Including the whole song seems to have crossed a line–meaning it felt inappropriate given the serious nature of the Continuum members’ conversations.

Surprisingly, I found that it was far more difficult to scale back the music than it was to simply include the entire song. It took far more editorial skill to dial back this sound effect. I had to re-listen to the clip over and over again asking, “Is this working yet?”

Appendix 14: Board of Public Services Meeting

The city posts its Board of Public Service meetings on YouTube. After finding audio from the December 23, 2014 meeting when they voted to revoke New Life’s permit, I edited it into a more exciting piece of audio. The original clip was around 10 minutes, so I had to cut out large sections. I decided to be heavy-handed with this editing so the audience would recognize it is edited. This involved speeding the tempo at certain moments and layering sounds ontop of one another.

The most compelling, final moments of this clip (when the crowd shouts “homeless lives matter”) are not edited. (Note: one of my favorite parts of this clip is the shaky voice of Director Bess.)

Appendix 13: Map of Continuum of Care Shelters

For an interactive version of the map, click here.

shelters

Key

Blue Shelters: Serves Men Only (the different shade of blue marks a difference between the client’s age groups)

Pink Shelters: Serves Women only (many of these shelters serve pregnant and postpartum women) 

Purple Shelters: Serves Families 

Green Shelters: Service not tied to gender 

Black Shelter: Closed shelter (i.e., Bridge Outreach)

Grey Shelters: Potentially or nearly closing shelters (i.e., 12 & Park Recreation Center and New Life Evangelistic Center) 

Yellow Shelter: Location of the future Biddle House  

 

Appendix 11: Original Script

This is my first draft of the script. The biggest difference: I divided the narration into 4 large chunks. The final version of the story features all four of the group members’ voices interspersed throughout the entire podcast. In this early version, I imagined that each person would narrate one of the four main sections. 

Speaker 1 (Introduction–5 mins)

Teka Childress is a social worker. She works for an organization called BJC Behavioral Health as part of their homeless outreach team. She gets to know people who are homeless in the downtown area and connects them to mental health services when they need it. This job sounds extremely demanding on multiple levels. For example, Teka regularly worries about the people who are slipping through the cracks at any given moment.

Teka: “In the course of that work, about ten or so years ago, I was looking for one of the people that I worked with because it was gonna be a very cold night. And when I couldn’t find him, I ran into another man at the bus stop who was almost passed out. I called the ambulance but they would not take him. I tried to cover him up and tried to get him help. Called the ambulance back–they wouldn’t come back to get him. [pause]. The long and the short of it is that he died that night, and I felt like I should have gone back in the middle of the night to help him, and I had not done that. And I realized there was so much more we needed to do for people that were homeless in Saint Louis. And we could do more.”    

Teka saw a person fall through the cracks of a system, as I think many of us do. But unlike many of us, she did something about it. She helped found Winter Outreach, which hits the streets any night that falls below certain temperature thresholds to meet the homeless wherever they are–providing clothing, food, and transportation to shelters. Teka saw a gap in services, and she filled that gap as best she could. You’d think people would be thrilled, that they would universally agree this was a good thing. But it’s not that simple. Teka was arrested for disturbing the peace back in 2014. And now that Saint Louis is considering a bill that would make it illegal to distribute food to the homeless without an expensive permit, she might be arrested again for her work. In a sense, this bill seems designed to undo all the work Teka has put into filling what she sees as a crack in the system.

Teka: “I think there’s a gap in bringing everyone to the table. Instead of penalizing individuals, and groups, and churches who want to bring food downtown, we penalize them by saying you will be at risk of breaking the law if you give food to your neighbor. There’s a great gap when we can’t allow all of us to help one another.”  

What one person sees as filling a gap, another person sees as a nuisance–an unnecessary or even harmful interference. For the next ten minutes, we’re going to tell the story of one homeless shelter filling what is sees as a gap in services in downtown Saint Louis along with the neighbors and businesses who couldn’t disagree more–who think the homeless population of downtown Saint Louis can and should receive services somewhere else.  Continue reading

Appendix 10: Production Plan (7/26-7/31)

By Thursday: Each person will pull 3-5 favorite/most important moments from each interview 

By Thursday: Pull interesting audio from any public meeting records, news stories, and Reverend Rice’s Channel 24 

By Thursday: Get a copy of the petition filed by against New Life filed by Brad Waldrop and other downtown residents and pull interesting quotes 

By Friday: Interview people who are homeless at Compton Missionary Baptist Church, and/or the park at 14th & Olive, and/or the downtown public library, and/or Arch City Defenders 

Saturday morning: Record street music at Soulard Farmer’s Market, Busch Stadium, and/or the Delmar Loop

Saturday: Group workshop; finish storyboard and narrative; compile a group version of the storyboard in Audacity