Graduate fellowship named for Joseph Fahy, a newspaper reporter known for being a champion of society's voiceless and vulnerable

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and the Indiana University School of Social Work are proud to announce a graduate fellowship named for Joe Fahy, who in his career as a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh and planning director at CHIP, was a champion of society's voiceless and vulnerable.

Joey Fahy
Joseph Fahy

The Joseph W. Fahy Graduate Fellowship carries a $5,000 stipend paid for by a gift from D. William Moreau, Jr., board member and past chair of Chip’s Board of Directors, and his wife Ann. The student awarded the fellowship will work closely with CHIP’s paid staff and volunteers to implement the Blueprint, the first such comprehensive plan adopted by a large U.S. city.  CHIP is a nonprofit organization leading the implementation of the plan addressing needs of people trying to overcome homelessness. The first recipient of the fellowship is Amanda Lamb, a Master of Social Work student at the IU School of Social Work. Lamb is interested in working on the homelessness issue and has spent time working with the homeless in the past.

Fahy died at the age of 54 in 2008. During his all-too-brief life, Fahy was a friend to people society often overlooked. He was earnest, thoughtful and soft spoken newspaperman whose religious faith inspired his passion for aiding the poor and the powerless in our society. Fahy treated everyone he encountered with uncommon courtesy, dignity and respect.

Fahy relished immersing himself in the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. Throughout his career, Fahy actively sought to write about people like Pat, a former Central State Hospital patient. In April 1994, Fahy described her as a woman whose “years of mental illness transformed her from a working mother with a devoted husband to a lonely patient whose only child stopped seeing her in 1987.” In the basement of his Statehouse office for The Indianapolis News, Fahy meticulously pored over boxes and boxes of psychiatric records while conducting a series of interviews with Pat punctuated by frequently leaving

Bill Moreau and Amanda Lamb

D. William Moreau, Jr. & Amanda Lamb

work to drive her to doctor’s appointments. As with many people Fahy encountered, he portrayed Pat fully—having few friends at the hospital, stealing from patients and starting fights, receiving periodic furloughs from Central State that resulted in living on the streets and repeated arrests for minor offenses such as refusing to pay cab fare, and harboring delusions of being a world traveler with a Ph.D. But he also saw the best of possibilities within everyone he met. In Pat’s case, he captured her optimism as she learned anew to cook, clean, shop and pay bills while benefiting from a newer generation of antipsychotic drugs that had freed her from once-debilitating delusions and auditory hallucinations. In the months he spent with Pat, Fahy helped a mental health caseworker track down her long-absent son, Tremain, a soft-spoken Lawrence Central High School senior who resembled his mother and hadn’t seen her since he was 12 because her mentally ill ramblings had frightened him. They met at a local Burger King. Thirteen months later, Fahy, deeply saddened by her 20-year-old son’s shooting death, described his own reaction to the reunion in a news story: “I remember blotting away tears as I took notes. Among the hundreds of events I have witnessed and written about over the years, none has been so moving.”

Stories of the aid he extended to people he met as a journalist abound. A former editor at The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News tells aspiring young journalists about his coverage of a woman who was struggling to support herself financially: “Her job at McDonald’s required that she mop up when the restaurant closed,” said Nancy Comiskey, an instructor at the Indiana University School of Journalism. “One night when he knew she would be tired, Joe went over to help her. I won’t ever forget the image of the reporter who cared more about the person than ‘the source.’”

Fahy channeled this care for others into a tenacious pursuit of accountability, whether skewering errant nursing home operators, incompetent bureaucrats or elected officials, many of them disarmed by his earnest smile and infectious laugh.

After leaving The Indianapolis Star, Fahy joined CHIP in 2000 as planning director. He became the principal researcher and author of the Blueprint to End Homelessness, the first such comprehensive plan adopted by a major American city. CHIP (www.chipindy.org ) is a nonprofit organization leading implementation of the Blueprint, the Indianapolis area’s strategic plan for addressing needs of people trying to overcome homelessness. These needs include permanent housing, health and human services, employment, education and mental health and substance abuse treatment. CHIP’s mission is to end homelessness locally by coordinating an effective community-wide response. The number of

Indianapolis residents recorded to be homeless has been cut by half since adoption of the Blueprint.

“While the Blueprint belongs to the entire city of Indianapolis, it would not exist without Joe Fahy’s thorough research and clear-eyed writing,” said former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, whose administration spearheaded the local focus on homelessness issues.  “When added to Joe’s remarkable body of work for The News and The Star, Joe has left an enduring legacy for all of us who call Indianapolis home.”
  

In a lengthy reporting career that ended at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fahy covered a range of beats, including crime, government, social services and the fine arts. But Fahy had an affinity for writing about people living in poverty or with intellectual and emotional disabilities. Before joining CHIP, his stories exposed poor care of seniors living in Indiana nursing homes, chronicled the movement of longtime Central State Hospital patients, and highlighted deaths and poor care among mentally disabled, medically fragile Hoosiers moved from institutions by the state into community homes. Fahy also worked as a media affairs specialist for Noble of Indiana, an Indianapolis nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities, before he returned to journalism in 2004.

Joseph William Fahy Jr. was born March 15, 1954, in Oldenburg, Ind.  He was adopted as an infant by Joseph W. Fahy, a landscape foreman for Indianapolis Public Schools, and Ruth Pedigo Fahy, a homemaker who later worked as an office manager and personnel manager. A lifelong non-smoker, Mr. Fahy was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer nearly two years before his death. The Fahy Fellowship is a heartfelt tribute to his passion for social justice and his empathy for those less fortunate.

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
IUPUI
robschn@iupui.edu
(317) 278-0303