By David N. Young
The producer of a documentary highlighting the growing homelessness problem throughout Orange County was presented with an Award of Excellence by the American Alliance for Community Media during their annual convention in Long Beach.
John Underwood, a producer/host for the Los Alamitos Community Television (LATV) thanked the Alliance for their focus on preserving community television and said he was honored by the recognition.
For more than a decade, Underwood has focused his “Backstory” docuseries on a variety of issues, including homelessness.
The program for which Underwood was honored, “Backstory: Homeless in OC,” focused on the fallout from the judicial action that forced the breakup of a huge homeless encampment on the Santa Ana Riverbed
Homelessness is a problem now faced by all cities in Orange County, said Underwood, noting that federal judge David O. Carter has ruled that all 34 OC cities “must be involved in a real way” in determining a long-term solution to the homeless.
His program covered the breakup of the Riverbed encampment, calling it a “fiasco” that resulted in the overflow of homeless into parks and all of the “darker corners of Orange County.”
Every OC city was impacted by the event, he said, including Los Alamitos. He said between 20-30 homeless citizens show up at Judy’s Kitchen in Los Alamitos on Saturday’s when the invite the homeless for a meal.
Underwood said he is now at work at a full-length documentary on the next phase of involvement where as much as half-a-billion dollars could pour into the county.
“There could be as much as $500 million allocated for a solution,” said Underwood, which could catch the interest of serious developers and others “seeking to profit” from the crisis.
The current winter, cold and rainy, “has been brutal” on the homeless in Orange County, said Underwood. Mass warehousing of the homeless has been problematic and the local producer is promising to train his cameras on the expected flood of resources when they pour in to find “a
real continuum for care and transitional housing for the homeless.”
The Los Al TV station is among hundreds of community TV stations and public media across the country seeking to preserve local community television.
Underwood was an editor and investigative reporter for the News Enterprise from 2003-2007 before joining Los Al TV.