After we published Chasing The Fix, our series on addiction and homelessness, in December, we realized something was missing.

We spent months reporting in Woonsocket, R.I. Health Reporter Lynn Arditi embedded with the country’s first new mobile addiction treatment unit; she spent hours speaking with people experiencing homelessness; she attended addiction counseling groups and public meetings. The resulting series paints a nuanced picture of people in our communities coping with homelessness and addiction. But we worried that many of the people Lynn quoted might never read or hear her stories. How could we report for these people, rather than just on them?

That’s why we decided to experiment by producing a small invite-only community engagement event centered on Chasing The Fix. The goal: bring the reporting to people connected to addiction and homelessness in Woonsocket.

The Woonsocket Harris Public Library agreed to host the event in a private room on a Thursday morning in February. We invited people from the unhoused community, and their treatment providers, to join us for a simple breakfast and the opportunity to engage with Lynn’s reporting.

At the library, our team set up a station on which attendees could listen and read Lynn’s stories. We framed some of Lynn’s photographs and mounted them on the wall, and projected a slideshow of images Lynn captured in her reporting. And producer James Baumgartner offered attendees the chance to tell their own stories, which we recorded.

About 40 people showed up, about half of whom had experienced homelessness. Seven people took the time to share their own stories of addiction and/or homelessness. And we learned a lot about how to engage communities that for us are often difficult to reach.

After the event we donated the framed photographs from Lynn’s work to one of the social service agencies in Woonsocket. One of the leaders of the organization sent a thank you, which read in part: "Lynn, thank you so much for the lovely breakfast and opportunity to share your story/work with our staff and the people we serve. Thank you for sharing the photos with us as they enhance the story in a powerful way. These will be an ongoing reminder to our people that they matter and that there is someone willing to give voice to their pain.”