Motel Manor: Suburban Homelessness

Motel Manor: Suburban Homelessness

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST: At a highway crossroads in Missouri, desperate families are each crammed into a single room with all of their belongings. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Forced to live in budget motel rooms until they get back on their feet, the homeless of St. Charles County, Missouri, wonder when this “vacation” will end so they can go home. In an otherwise affluent area, a $175-per-week motel room, supplemented by free food and other necessities contributed by charitable organizations, is the only option for some families. This award-winning St. Louis Post-Dispatch audio slideshow focuses on two families that have found themselves crammed into one room with all of their belongings.

Joe and Cherri Trantham and their two small children have so little left that they required assistance from a relief organization just to pay $36 a night for their room. Intimate photographs of Cherri’s despair as she begs for money to care for her children, and her husband’s frustrating job search are examples of the strength of this piece, which treats the plight of the poor with dignity.

Julie Ford’s family, supported by only one income after her husband was laid off, couldn’t keep up with the bills, and was shocked to find that their landlord moved all of their belongings onto the curb while Julie was at work. The viewer follows the Ford’s possessions from U-Haul truck to a jam-packed storage space, and the 6 family members and a cat into the claustrophobic room they call home. As relief workers put it, when people lose their jobs, cars and houses, this is the “last-chance inn.”

This audio slideshow won second place in the 67th annual Picture of the Year International awards, in the category of Issue Reporting Story – Multimedia.

Robert Cohen was a Featured Photography finalist for the 94th annual Pulitzer Prize in Journalism “for his sensitive portrayal of homeless suburban families camping in motels during the recession, often recording memorable emotional moments.”

CHANNEL: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Length: 4:34

Photography and production by Robert Cohen

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