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People Talk About the Homeless on CityTV:

Stephen Solomon and Ralph Saltsman are hosting It’s Your Call: Homelessness in Our Community on Santa Monica’s CityTV, and the response has been surprising, says Saltsman.

Before the weekly call-in show debuted on April 25, CityTV station manager Robin Gee said that the station “is presenting a program that will allow viewers to call in to express their concerns and viewpoints while providing valuable background information and insights into the issue of homelessness.” Now, halfway into the show’s projected eight-week run, Saltsman reports that while he expected an audience “that would reach across the board [because the] issue touches everyone,” what he did not expect was a number of calls from homeless persons themselves.

Solomon and Saltsman, law partners who are known to CityTV audiences as hosts of the continuing Legal Help Live show, toured homeless facilities in downtown Los Angeles and in Santa Monica in preparation for the show, and they are regularly joined by guests with various points of view on the subject.

During a recent week that focused on the subject of panhandling, the program’s three segments featured Cptn. Andrew Smith, LAPD Central Area Commander, who argued that because of available services, “Nobody goes hungry in downtown L.A.,” and panhandling donations “almost exclusively” go to drugs and alcohol; Rev. Judith Meyer of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica, who viewed panhandling as only a small part of homelessness (“the No. 1 social justice issue” in her church), and said it is not for us to judge what the panhandler will spend the money on; and Collette Brooks, Board Chair of OPCC, who went underground and lived homeless in Santa Monica for a week – she said she saw people whom she knew and none of them recognized her, but their children did.

During that program, two of the seven callers identified themselves as being or having been homeless. Two weeks ago, Saltsman said, the program got a “call for help” on the air from a homeless woman just as the show was ending, and so the call was cut short. “But our producer got enough information that we were able to put her together with our guest” that week, who was from a service provider agency.

But the calls do come in from across the board, Saltsman says, including at least one call from a citizen who was angry with the number of homeless people on the street.

It’s Your Call: Homelessness in Our Community airs every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. on channel 16 in Santa Monica and cable channel 36 in Los Angeles, through June 13, 2007. The show repeats on CityTV (channel 16) weekdays at noon and Fridays at 8 p.m. (You can’t call in on the replays.) The program is presented in partnership with the Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition (WSHC) and the Los Angeles Central Providers Collaborative (LACPC).

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