Investigative Fund projects “Opportunity Knocks,” Paul Reyes’ piece in the Fall 2009 Virginia Quarterly Review, and “There Goes the Neighborhood” by Alyssa Katz, published in the September 2009 American Prospect, are two of the three finalists for the Harry Chapin Media Award for magazine reporting on poverty and hunger.

Reyes tracks community activist Max Rameau, founder of Take Back the Land, in Miami, Florida, where 70,000 people, perhaps more, are waiting for affordable housing. While Miami has one of the largest numbers of foreclosures of any city in the United States, thousands of foreclosed homes lie vacant. Rameau’s group attempts to restore evicted families to their homes. With some successes under their belt, their efforts have been copied by ACORN, New York’s Picture the Homeless, and other community groups across the country.

Alyssa Katz’s second I Fund investigation of the foreclosure crisis (read the first here) probes a new wave of predation — speculators who buy foreclosed properties in bulk and very cheaply. In the working-class Atlanta neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Katz finds that even longtime residents are stopped from purchasing and restoring foreclosed properties because speculators such as Stonecrest and Stone Equity Group snap them up first, and for a song. They then make a 1,000 percent profit on them or allow them to lie empty, attracting crime.

The Harry Chapin Media Awards, formerly known as the World Hunger Media Awards, honor outstanding coverage of hunger and poverty, and the underlying root causes of these problems. They are accompanied by cash prizes of $1,000 to $2,500. An independent panel will determine the winners in June.

Congratulations to Paul and Alyssa!