Andrew Sheeler is from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. During his time at WWFF11 he chose to spend several hours with the “unruly” residents in the “psych” room.
It may be cliché but it’s true: we fear what we don’t know. Society chooses to neglect the homeless and as a consequence, it fears these forgotten folk. When I arrived at the Hollywood, Fla. COSAC Homeless Shelter to participate in the 2011 Will Write for Food, I admittedly felt that fear weigh in my gut.
The fear intensified as the evening went on. I was told to wash my hands constantly as there had been outbreaks of MRSA, a bacteria that’s highly resistant to antibiotics. The elevator was a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. While my fellow student journalists chose to spend time in the kitchen or with staff members, I chose to hang out in “the room at the end of the hall.” That’s where the really big troublemakers live.
How big of a troublemaker were we talking about? One occupant of that room, number 221, told a fellow WWFFer he had made a sandwich with his own feces and eaten it. Oh. OH. I suppose it was inevitable that I’d want to write about that room.
When I took the assignment, I knew it would be scary. That was the point. By putting a face to the “worst of the worst,” the occupants in Room 221, I was able to face my own fear. That’s what good journalism does.
— Andrew Sheeler, University of Alaska Fairbanks