Tardy to the blog party (more like truant)

So, it’s no secret I haven’t been keeping up with my blog here. Now that grad school is over and I have a job that is more behind the scenes, I’m not doing as much story writing as I once was.

Maybe microblogging is just more me. Find me on Twitter – I have a lot to say there.

And check out the Better Government Association. I have a blog there each weekday that aggregates the top government-related news in Illinois (Morning Watch).

I hope to be better about posting in the future. Maybe that will be my New Years resolution.

Domestic violence in grassroots organizations’ crosshairs

Black, swollen eyes. Puffy, torn, bleeding lips.

A collective gasp rippled through the Internet in February 2011 when photos surfaced of pop singer Rihanna, taken two years earlier, after she reported her then-boyfriend, hip hop artist Chris Brown, assaulted her before that year’s Grammy Awards.

Now, more than three years after the fight, the Internet again buzzes with rumors that Brown and Rihanna, a native of Barbados, are reuniting.

Magazines dedicate their covers to photos of the couple. Gossip bloggers questions whether she should take him back.

But the issue of domestic violence hits home for Sukree Boodram, a Guyana native and domestic violence survivor. She established an awareness group in 2010 for other Caribbean women who have been abused.

“(Rihanna is) a drama of the media,” said Boodram, who established Caribbean American Domestic Violence Awareness (CADVA) in 2010. “But most people are not doing anything about it.”

Domestic violence is a problem not uncommon in the Caribbean. The United Nations estimates a third of women are victims of abuse in intimate relationships in Barbados. [Read more...]

As holidays near, more might go without meals

With Thanksgiving mere hours away, visions of drumsticks, gravy boats and mountains of mashed potatoes are swirling throughout the minds of adults and children around the country.

But for some who are facing hunger and poverty, these visions might be more hopes and dreams than reality.

About 95,000 DuPage residents are considered food insecure by Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. This means that more than ten percent of DuPage residents don’t know where or if they will find their next meal.

“There’s so much need out there – it’s unbelievable,” said Jody Bender, the community relations director at Loaves & Fishes, a Naperville food pantry that provides meals and groceries for DuPage county and Naperville residents. [Read more...]

Homeless remain mostly unseen in the suburbs

Jill Markussen clearly remembers the day she told a Hinsdale woman she was homeless.

“I thought she was going to have a stroke,” Markussen laughed, recalling the woman’s surprised face. “I’m not what you think of when you think of a homeless person.”

Markussen, 49, lives in Bartlett with her three kids. She dresses professionally. She runs her own non-profit. She’ll finish her degree in psychology from Governors State University in December.

Even to herself, she doesn’t seem like a stereotypical homeless person.

But she is. [Read more...]

Safe sex a priority in the shelter

A version of this story appeared in the September 2011 issue of The Homeless Voice. It is a product of the Society of Professional Journalists Will Write for Food program.

All three times Chris and Dana have had sex at COSAC Homeless Shelter in Hollywood, Fla., she’s asked him not to use a condom. And he hasn’t.

For shelter founder and director Sean Cononie, this is a big problem.

He called the couple, who have been dating for about two weeks, into his office Saturday night to talk. Cononie’s concerned about the spread of sexually transmitted infections, particularly HIV, in his shelter and among people he considers family.

“Would you stick your penis in a meat grinder?” Cononie asks Chris, an olive-skinned man with his name tattooed in script on his neck. [Read more...]