Life on Turner Street

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, there’s a red brick building with a green door. Twelve families live there. They’re almost all single moms with kids, and they are all, by federal definition, homeless.

The families are part of a transitional housing program called Turner Street. It’s two years long, and its purpose is to give them what they need to pull themselves out of poverty.

The program is one of thousands across the country that operate under a certain assumption: that people who end up homeless don’t know how to take care of themselves — and they need to be taught. This idea has fallen out of favor with the federal government.

I followed three women as they made their way through Turner Street. Their experiences raise a question: when people are homeless, how much help do they need?

A garden, a redevelopment plan, and a fight over who owns a neighborhood

Tommy Joshua, one of the founders of the North Philly Peace Park, gets ready to plant vegetables. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

Tommy Joshua, one of the founders of the North Philly Peace Park, gets ready to plant vegetables. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

A vacant lot in a city becomes a dumping ground. Somebody decides to fix it up and grow a garden or open a little shop. Years pass, and then the owner comes back.

Often, the people who’ve been tending the land believe they should have some rights to it.

That can lead to some heated moments. Like when Tommy Joshua showed up at a community meeting to find out the North Philly Peace Park was about to get swept up in a half-billion dollar redevelopment plan by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

“I remember them telling them, flatly, ‘We don’t accept that,'” Joshua said. “‘The Peace Park is there, so y’all not gonna be able to build there.'”

More in this story, reported for Keystone Crossroads.

How a Philadelphia doctor changed the way we think about lead poisoning

Dr. Alan Leviton (left), Dr. Herbert Needleman, and Dr. David Bellinger at the Charles A. Dana Foundation Award ceremony in 1989. Needleman won an award for his research on lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Bellinger)

Dr. Alan Leviton (left), Dr. Herbert Needleman, and Dr. David Bellinger at the Charles A. Dana Foundation Award ceremony in 1989. Needleman won an award for his research on lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Bellinger)

In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Needleman published a study linking lead exposure in children to IQ deficits and learning disabilities.

His research was partially responsible for the ban on lead in gasoline. And since then, dozens of studies have shown the same health effects.

Needleman has spent the rest of his life trying to get the lead out of kids’ homes. But in 2016, children are still exposed to it.

I told Needleman’s story in this piece for Keystone Crossroads. A version of the story ran on NPR.

Hamburg, Germany tries to create a neighborhood from scratch

People eat lunch on steps overlooking a waterway in HafenCity. (Wulf Rohwedder/for Keystone Crossroads)

People eat lunch on steps overlooking a waterway in HafenCity. (Wulf Rohwedder/for Keystone Crossroads)

On the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany, there’s a district called HafenCity. It used to be an active port, inaccessible to residents.

But then the city decided the land was worth more as a neighborhood than a port and turned it into a riverfront district, with modern glass office buildings and apartment complexes, and futuristic looking public spaces.

Now, the hard part: turning that district into a place people actually want to live and work.

More on that in this story from Keystone Crossroads, which I reported during a fellowship to Germany last summer.

For med students, Match Day is a time when dreams and dread collide

Maurice Hinson, a first-year resident who I followed in the weeks leading up to Match Day last year. (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

Maurice Hinson, a first-year resident who I followed in the weeks leading up to Match Day last year. (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

In a several-part story for The Pulse, WHYY’s health and science show, I followed medical students who were waiting to find out where they matched into a residency program.

I spent a lot of time with the students, meeting their families and partners, learning about their lives, and even tagging along as they submitted their final ranking lists and went out drinking to celebrate.

I was in the room with them on Match Day as they opened their envelopes and found out where they’ll spend the next few years of their lives.

And I followed up with the new doctors a year later to find out if residency is everything they hoped for.

More in parts onetwo, and three of the story.