Homeless reporters launch Atlanta newspaper

by Jaye Watson, 11Alive Reporter

ATLANTA — In Jeremy Godfrey’s creative writing class, ideas are born, discussed.

“Today’s assignment was based on a writing assignment out of the Chicago street paper,” he said, sitting propped on a chair in front of the classroom. “The three characters in this assignment don’t realize the police are there.”

What this group learns in this classroom will help them report out on the streets, where they live.

Ivan Cooley is uncomfortable being called a reporter. For years the only thing he’s been called is homeless.

“Hopefully people will hear our voice and maybe we won’t be as stigmatized, ” he said.

Cooley’s work is in the debut issue of Atlanta Overlook, a newspaper whose entire reporting staff is homeless. Georgia State doctoral student Jeremy Godfrey launched the paper with the help of Mercy Community Church, which serves many of Atlanta’s poor and homeless.

“I think it has the power to reach a public that views homelessness in a negative light,” Godfrey said.

Every Monday, the reporters meet at the church for a writing workshop and submit stories for the next issue.

Lynda Moore wants to write about being a single homeless mother. “This economy is affecting so many people and it might be them one day,” she said.

Lynda Baker’s article in Overlook is called the Homeless Psalm. She reads part of it aloud, “The system is my shepherd, I lack everything that I need. The system makes me lie down on the concrete…”

They are recollections, opinions, snap shots of lives different than our own. But this slim newspaper is fact for those who live it.

Baker sits at the bus stop in front of the library on Ponce de Leon. She wants it to be her nighttime spot, but one cop keeps telling her she has to move. Having spent most of her adult life on the streets, she knows what people think of her. ”As far as I’ve heard, we’re no good; we’re just bums,” she said.

This paper aims to change that, to serve as a connection between the homeless and the housed, between the average individual and people who feel invisible. These collected articles are a chance for these people to be seen, understood.

“I get a certain satisfaction when I hear people say ‘Hey, that’s pretty good’,” Cooley said.

Cooley’s first article for Atlanta Overlook is a poem, a dream for his life. He reads the last stanza aloud. “Compassion, grace and mercy. Let those be the leaves that cover the branches of my life and grow strong, like a redwood tree.”