Press Release – New York, October 28, 2016 – Guardian US today announced funding of $550,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to produce a year-long series of sustained and deep reporting on the growing homelessness crisis in the western United States. The project will focus on bridging the gap between journalism and activism by engaging with readers and inspiring them to take action to spark real change via new technology provided by Speakable.
While homelessness has been steadily declining nationwide since 2007, it is a critical issue in the western US, where tent cities have become a defining feature of major cities and local governments are increasingly declaring “states of emergency” over the number of people lacking shelter.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recent annual homeless assessment, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii were four of the five states with the highest increases in homelessness in 2015. California alone accounts for 21% of the nation’s homeless population.
Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow Guardian US to expand and deepen its coverage of homelessness through reporting and investigations, interactives, films and deep engagement with readers and viewers. Speakable’s innovative Action Button, which will be added to all the journalism produced in the series, will enable and encourage readers to take action to address some of the issues highlighted throughout the series, for example to donate to, or volunteer with, local organizations working on the ground to combat homelessness throughout the western US.
Guardian US editor, Lee Glendinning, said: “At Guardian US, we’re committed to reporting on some of the most prevalent and troubling issues that face America every day, such as the homelessness crisis. This kind of journalism can often leave readers wanting to find ways they can do something to help, and we’re so pleased this groundbreaking partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow us to experiment with new ways in which our journalism can motivate our community to take action. By engaging deeply with our audience throughout this series, and by encouraging them to be part of the solution, we hope to collectively create genuine change on this devastating issue.”
Audience engagement metrics and insights from the 12 month project will be studied carefully to better understand the effectiveness of this new model of action oriented reporting that translates into meaningful participation and action by readers.
The project will be run from the Guardian’s San Francisco bureau and overseen by its west coast bureau chief, Paul Lewis, who commented: “Homelessness is a devastating problem in the western states – but shockingly underreported. We’re thrilled to have an investment of resources that will enable sustained reporting on this subject – and similarly excited to have the opportunity to innovate with a new technology that will encourage our readers to take action.”