BRATTLEBORO -- Brattleboro Area Drop In Center Executive Director Lucie Fortier thought it was a great idea when she heard that Brattleboro was being considered for this year's Homelessness Marathon.

This is the 16th year of the radio marathon, which brings the voices of the homeless to a national radio audience.

The show is typically held in larger urban centers and has previously been held in cities like Detroit, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

"It made me feel good that Brattleboro was going to be put on the map as a place that deals with its homelessness," Fortier said. "People are surprised when they hear that this community has people who spend their nights in an overflow shelter. It is nice to get these stories out."

The 16th annual Homelessness Marathon will be held Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

National radio host Jeremy Alderson will be set up on Main Street, in front of the drop in center overflow shelter which is located in The First Baptist Church.

The show will be available across the country over the Public Radio Satellite System, the Pacifica Ku-band and Pacifica's Audioport, and locally on WVEW 107 fm and on Brattleboro Community Television.

During the broadcast homeless people from Brattleboro, and the local people who work with them, will tell their stories to a national audience.

Alderson will also talk to other homeless people and advocates from across the country about the issue of homelessness.

"It's important to get the stories out about these people," said Fortier. "People who are homeless are human beings. They are someone's daughter or son or father or mother and they deserve to be treated with respect."

Alderson said this is the first time the annual radio broadcast is being held from a small, rural town.

Alderson lived in Brattleboro in the 1970s and when he started looking for small rural communities that offer support to the local homeless population Alderson said he was impressed with the services that a small town like Brattleboro has been able to develop.

"We have never been to a small rural town like this and it gives us a chance to discuss the issue of rural poverty and homelessness in a way we have not had a chance to in the past," said Alderson.

Alderson holds his radio marathon every year in towns or cities that have community radio stations, and Brattleboro's community radio station, WVEW, is partnering with Alderson on the program.

The annual homelessness marathon usually runs about 14 hours, but Alderson said the Brattleboro program will be shorter, just because there are fewer people to speak with.

The Brattleboro show is scheduled to run about six hours.

In the larger cities he said, it is not unusual to interview hundreds of homeless people over the course of the radio show.

The show will also be on Brattleboro Community Television, which has agreed to provide equipment and volunteers to film and stream the broadcast.

"Ever since I first presented this to the people in Brattleboro there has been universal support," said Alderson. "From the people who volunteer at the shelters to the radio and community television, the people have been great. Brattleboro should be very proud of what it is doing to address this issue."

During the first two hours Wednesday Alderson said he will talk with volunteers and staff from the drop in center and from Morningside Shelter, as well as with the individuals who spend time in the shelters.

During that time the national radio audience will be brought in and a radio piece on a homeless program in San Francisco will be shared.

Over the next few hours Alderson will continue to talk with people in Brattleboro while also talking with live homeless advocates around the country and playing prerecorded radio pieces on different homeless programs in California, Utah, Virginia and Montana.

"The number one idea behind the broadcast is that this should not be happening in America," said Alderson. "We want people to understand that homeless people are our fellow citizens. We hope that when people hear their stories they will start to think about them in that way."

Alderson said the radio show has changed and grown over the years, still as long as there are homeless people in America he says there will be a need to talk to the people who spend their time in shelters and with the people who work to keep those shelters open.

"We are trying to build consensus to get people to take action," he said. "Homelessness is a problem and it can be solved. We are lighting a candle in the dark. We want this to be a part of the national discussion."

For more information on the Homelessness Marathon go to http://news.homelessnessmarathon.org/

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.