The essentialness of SAMARITANS, KCRW’s new four-part docuseries podcast about homelessness in Los Angeles county, cannot be overstated. Hosted by Anna Scott, a journalist who reports on issues related to housing in Southern California, the podcast tracks the journey of Christine Curtiss, an unhoused woman living in Mid-City who we meet at the beginning of a year-long journey to get permanent housing, navigating the complex world of municipal government and homelessness services.
An incredibly digestible listen (each episode is between 20-30 minutes), Scott gives a masterclass presentation of the broader problems homeless people face both generally and in Los Angeles specifically, especially the quicksand nature of the problem, that minor issues become compounded when you don’t have housing. As we’ve seen local and state government issues become Instagrammable fodder meant to convey big ideas in simple ways over the last few weeks of the Black Lives Matter movement, SAMARITANS similarly boils down one woman’s journey into a sweet, frustrating, and extremely educational listen that’s instantly accessible. You are immediately rooting for Christine, of course, but you’re also rooting for a better system, which many stories of homelessness fail to capitalize on.
The podcast comes at an important impasse for California, as the conversation around housing, not just in Los Angeles but in the United States as a whole, grows more urgent by the day. Per Scott’s own reporting via NPR, LA recently reported 66,000+ unhoused residents, a staggering number that is tragically a 12.7% increase from just last year, and a number that’s undoubtedly growing rapidly as our local and state government continue failing to respond to COVID responsibly. “Without additional protections specifically for renters, one recent UCLA study found, about 36,000 more households could end up evicted and homeless in LA County because of the pandemic,” Scott reports.
COVID is briefly touched on but certainly not a focal point of SAMARITANS, but in many ways the story being chronicled in the podcast feels almost more relevant against that backdrop. As Scott points out early on, and as you come to understand through the podcast, Christine should have been a relatively easy person to house—that she’s a communicative, honest, and wonderfully self-aware co-host in this journey makes her an important face to put on the problem of homelessness. But even she slips through the cracks of the system for a variety of reasons, and that’s important to remember as more and more people find themselves caught in that quicksand, people you may even know. SAMARITANS should be considered a must-listen for people living in Southern California.