A moving look at homeless on NBC; CBS kicks off `48 Hours'. Brokaw special could help spur action; Rather revisited hospital where JFK died
New York — Home Street Home NBC, tomorrow, 10-11 p.m. Reporters: Tom Brokaw and Lucky Severson. Writers: Tom Brokaw, Paul W. Greenberg, Lucky Severson. Executive producer: Paul W. Greenberg. 48 Hours CBS, premi`ered Tuesday, Jan. 19, 8-9 p.m. Future dates to be announced. Anchor: Dan Rather. Executive producer: Andrew Heyward. NBC News is performing a major public service tomorrow night by graphically illustrating America's greatest national disgrace: the plight of the homeless.
Certainly the homeless have received attention in newspapers and magazines. But television is undoubtedly the best medium for instantaneously and vividly humanizing these figures so effectively that perhaps millions of better-off Americans will demand that more be done.
According to this pitifully truthful documentary, anywhere from 200,000 to 3 million homeless people roam the streets of America. By and large, they are the mentally ill, troubled teen-agers, disturbed Vietnam veterans, and the economically deprived.
``Home Street Home,'' despite its clever title, is a compassionate, caring report on the social, economic, and political issues which have left so many people huddled in doorways, sleeping over heating grates, hustling on the streets, living in their cars.
Tom Brokaw and Lucky Severson personalize the problem: They talk with the mentally ill who, discharged from institutions with no out-patient help, refuse to move into shelters. They listen to the shocking stories of youngsters who have become drug addicts and prostitutes because they cannot live at home. They listen to grieving Vietnam veterans who are still unable to function because of their traumatic war experiences. They empathize with the working homeless, who cannot earn enough to pay the high costs of housing today.
Then they also talk to the experts, whose weary optimism seems to be ebbing in some cases but who most often stubbornly and selflessly persist in trying to help.
Sadly, although this disturbingly incisive program points to some of the obvious an-swers - more half-way houses, better counseling, more low-income housing - it does not find ways to implement these solutions. The major strength of ``Home Street Home'' is that it refuses to view homelessness as an abstract issue. It forces us to see the problem in terms of human beings. And perhaps it will spur us to demand that finding solutions be made a higher national priority.
On Tuesday evening, CBS News inaugurated its latest venture in entertainment/news programming with a report on two days and nights at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The program, which wasn't available for previewing, opened with a clip of Walter Cronkite relaying Dan Rather's report of John F. Kennedy's death at the same hospital.
Then Rather led a team of CBS correspondents in coverage, which turned out to be somewhat intrusive, of every aspect of the hospital's operation - from brain surgery to nurse burn-out. It was more than you ever wanted to know about the internal workings of a big-city hospital. Future programs will detail two days and nights in other facets of American society. I hope CBS will find areas less familiar to examine, since hospitals, have had more than their share of TV attention already.