Unethical Portrayal of Homeless Youths

I picked up this edition of the City Pages with high hopes for the cover article. Sadly, the reporter touched on the realities of homelessness in a disturbingly common manner. The first half of the article presented intimate details about the difficult situations, including abuse, rape and living ‘arrangements’ wherein teenagers trade sex for a place to live (a common method abuse perpetrated on this particularly vulnerable community) in a semi-sensational manner.

About midway through, while describing a collection of teenagers who managed (against all odds) to band together, get a roof over their heads and begin forming something akin to a family (read: formerly homeless and basically unsupervised teenagers sharing a house in the wealthy western suburbs), the following comment is made:

“They’re a hodgepodge of exotic sexualities and obsessive fandoms. With the exception of Crystal’s “super gay” girlfriend, the others are open to dating any number of people regardless of sex or gender.”

This is followed with details that enforce the idea that broken kids, with kinky habits, have set up shop in town. Honestly, I found myself wondering why the article wasn’t titled something like: Slumming It Just Got Local, New Options In the Suburbs!

After finishing the article, I felt really bad for the teens portrayed, because the fallout from this journalist’s work will be life-long and extremely damaging.

I also felt angry…enraged, really…at the insensitive and irresponsible nature of the piece. The details highlighted directly benefit pimps, johns and predators. Even worse – they were not necessary, or even pertinent, to the story.

There is an enormous amount of information related to homelessness among the super-wealthy that is never touched upon. There are issues never explored. There are realities that effectively disappear because the media-defined ‘important’ facts only exist at the  intersection of sex, youth and desperation.

Bottom line? Homeless teens need real help and reasonably accessible resources. Journalists like Ms. Du need some eye-opening experiences or sensitivity training – probably both.

The Real Homeless of Wayzata High, City Pages, by Susan Du

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