I spoke with Dawn Shepard and Kirk Rodriguez for a recent article about the King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s plans to launch a “peer navigator” program to lead its effort to address downtown homelessness. In short, a peer navigator in this context is someone who has experienced homelessness themselves and uses that shared experience to establish trust and help guide people through the system.
Dawn used to do homeless outreach and is now a co-director of the Homelessness Authority’s new program. Kirk works with King County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Division on a team of peer navigators doing crisis prevention in Pioneer Square and downtown.
Both of them have experienced homelessness and other traumas in their past. They were open with their stories and willing to share them with me and Crosscut’s readers. And for that I am very grateful.
In sharing their stories, Dawn and Kirk helped Crosscut readers understand why the Homelessness Authority insists on putting “lived experience” at the forefront of its work and how its new peer navigation program will work.
Retelling difficult stories is often challenging for a reporter. I went through many rewrites trying to find the right balance of sharing enough detail to give a full picture of who Dawn and Kirk are and what they went through without oversharing.
Of course, our duty as journalists is to be honest and factual above all else, but there’s a way to do that without being insensitive or voyeuristic, and I hope I accomplished that here.