Youth homelessness, the Flint water crisis, and the oral history of rock… on this weekend’s edition of The Saturday Six Pack

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This past summer, during the episode of the Saturday Six Pack where we had local teens talking with our Mayor, Chief of Police, Sheriff and Superintendent of Ypsi Community Schools about issues that mattered to them, we heard from a young woman by the name of Brittney Barros, who, during our discussion, mentioned her experience as a homeless teen. Well, after the show, Brittney approached me and asked if I’d be willing to dedicate an entire segment to the subject of youth homelessness sometime. And that’s what we’re going to do this Saturday evening, during our first segment, when we’ll talk in more detail with Brittney about her experiences and meet Eastern Michigan University Senior Ramone Williams, the subject of a recent investigative piece on homelessness among Michigan’s college students… If you haven’t yet read the piece, which ran in the online publication The Bridge, you really should check it out… Here’s how it begins.

Ramone Williams is always hungry, but at the end of a Shakespeare class recently at Eastern Michigan University, he was ravenous.

As usual when it was too cold to sleep in his van, Williams had slept in the college library the previous night. He awoke on a bench in the computer lab just 30 minutes before his first class. He rushed to the student recreation building to take a shower, using toiletries and grabbing fresh clothes from a locker he keeps at the facility.

He didn’t have time to visit a second locker, the one in the Student Center where he stores bags of snack food he gets from a free food pantry on campus, before classes started.

At 3:15 p.m., with his last class behind him, Williams headed for the Student Center food court, doing some quick arithmetic in his head. He likes to carry a can of soup in his backpack, but he’d had his last can of sausage gumbo for dinner the day before.

Williams stops at his minivan to pick up the clothing and personal items he’ll need for the following day.

That meant he was going to have to buy a meal. Subway was too expensive. He liked the pita and hummus at the Middle Eastern eatery, but it wasn’t filling enough to sustain him until the next morning. He decided on a Wendy’s value meal that included a small cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, fries and a drink. At $4, the meal was more than he likes to spend at one time.

“This is what gets me anxious,” he said.

Williams is a college senior, reports a 3.4 grade point average and says his ambition is to work in radio, TV or information technology. He’s also homeless, sleeping on campus and searching bulletin boards for student events serving food.

He works two part-time jobs. That money is enough for tuition or a place to live, but not both.

Williams is choosing a degree over a home.

“My worry isn’t where I’m going to be at night,” Williams said. “My worry is how am I going to complete what I need to do?”…

During this first segment with Williams and Barros, we’ll also be joined by Megan DeVoe from EMU’s MAGIC (Mentorship, Access, Guidance In College) program, who, among other things, is charged with helping EMU’s homeless students, and Allie Schachter from Ozone House, who runs support, intervention and training programs for runaway, homeless, and high-risk youth and their families. My hope is that, after talking to Barros and Williams about their individual stories, we can then transition into a broader conversation on just how significant of a problem youth homelessness is in Washtenaw County, what resources are currently available, and how we, as members of this community, can help ensure that other young people don’t find themselves living on the street.

Then, during our second segment, we’ll be calling Flint’s LeeAnne Walters, the woman who, perhaps more than anyone else, can be credited with bringing the Flint water crisis to the attention of the world. Walters will be walking us through the events of the last 18 months, from the first signs of lead poisoning that she began to see in her children, to the point when a sympathetic EPA employee broke protocol and gave her a preliminary study of the toxic water running into her her home. We’ll talk about her evolution as both a “citizen scientist” and activist, and what she’s doing now to ensure not only that the children of Flint get the care they need, but that those responsible for the cover-up are held to account for their actions.

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[above: Lee Anne Walters of Flint, co-founder of Water You Fighting For?]

Here, to put things in perspective, is a quote from ACLU of Michigan investigative reporter Curt Guyette, who spoke recently to Michigan Radio about the water in the Walters home. “Let me put it this way,” he said. “If you have a glass of water, and it has a lead level of 5,000 parts per billion, the EPA considers it hazardous waste. One sample from the Walters’ house had more than 13,000 parts per billion. And that’s not even the scary part. The scary part is this report said there was reason to believe that the Walters’ home could be a canary in the coal mine.”

[above: ACLU video of LeeAnne Walters]

And, during our final segment, we’ll be talking rock ‘n roll with musician-turned- entrepreneur Stefan Graf, the founder of both Ypsilanti’s Illuminart and Belleville’s Fantasee Lighting. Among other things, I’m sure we’ll be discussing what it was like to open for Led Zeppelin, and to tour with the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, War, Johnny Winter and The James Gang. [If I forget, someone should call in and remind me that I’m supposed to ask him about the years he spend working with Keith Richards on the lighting of his house.]

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and distribute them in the Meijer’s parking lot.

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FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes. If you start right now, and listen to everything at double speed, but you can do it.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing.

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. Sure, sometimes it’s nothing even with you, that’s true, but usually you make it better.

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4 Comments

  1. Peter Larson
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    People will come together and share interesting comments, some of which will be broadcast for others to hear.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Will Graf be telling any good Iggy Pop stories?

  3. Eel
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    More importantly, will Pete Townshend be calling in again?

  4. jcp2
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I will thank Iggy Pop for making Carnival Cruise Lines unforgettable.

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  1. […] on an all new episode of The Saturday Six Pack, I’ll be talking with EMU student Ramone Williams, the subject of a recent investigative […]

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