THE MEDIA’S ROLE IN ADVOCACY
For more than a century, the general public has been exposed to the problem of homelessness in the writings of celebrated American authors (Kennedy, 1979; London, 1907; Riis, 1890). Homelessness has been explored in scores of journalistic accounts in the print media, television, and film in the postdeinstitutionalization era, beginning in the 1980s (Carmody, 1981; Finder, 1984; Kerr, 1985; Levine, 1984; Nelson, 1983), and continuing to the present
(McCoy, 2015; Nagourney, 2015; Reuters, 2015; Stewart, 2015). There is little doubt that the focus on homelessness by the media has played a role in advocacy by informing the public about the nature of homelessness, factors in its genesis, proposed solutions, and obstacles to bringing about successful resolutions. Television and film accounts of the experience of homeless people provide vivid illustrations of how mental illness can interfere with functioning and, if left untreated, lead to homelessness. In Tim Hunter’s 1993 film, The Saint of Fort Washington, Matt Dillon portrays a young man with schizophrenia who is kicked out of his home and ends up in a homeless shelter. Joe Wright’s 2009 film, The Soloist, is a true story of Los Angeles journalist Steve Lopez’s reporting on the life of Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless street musician and Juilliard dropout who suffers from schizophrenia.