Los Angeles Times, 2023
Author(s): Christina House, Claire Hannah Collins and Gale Holland
Two photojournalists and the homelessness reporter for the Los Angeles Times set out to answer the question of what happens to women who don’t have homes when they become pregnant. The trio collaborated to tell the story of one young mother’s attempts to reconcile her traumatic past and navigate a social services system that set her up for failure.
Emotional still and video imagery from Christina House and Claire Hannah Collins combined with Gale Holland’s masterful prose. The result transported readers into the young woman’s world and allowed others to experience her travails and disappointments, as well as her moments of joy.
The three journalists were present for the woman’s difficult decision to have her child. They were there at the baby’s birth. They shared the mother’s euphoria upon learning she could keep her daughter and her initial gratefulness when she found a place to live.
But there were also incredibly sad moments: The overwhelming grind of being a poor, single mother, and the baby’s handoff to a social worker at a McDonalds after her apartment failed a child welfare investigator’s inspection.
The Times journalists read studies and interviewed experts on poverty, foster care, homelessness, the effects of trauma on brain development and the lifelong consequences of adverse childhood experiences. They consulted United Nations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on covering child neglect and spoke to a psychologist and trauma expert on how to prepare the story for publication.
Reaction to the work was overwhelming and empathetic. Homeless service providers and government officials told the reporters that the series opened their eyes to gaps in the system.
“I’m so deeply moved by your story of Mckenzie,” said Miguel Santana, a former top L.A. administrator. “We often describe our approach to homelessness as a broken system. …The truth is, there really is no real system.”