’60 Minutes’ spotlights homeless Central Florida kids
By Hal Boedeker Orlando Sentinel television critic
11:15 PM EST, March 5, 2011
CBS’ “60 Minutes” offers a wrenching segment Sunday on homeless children in Central Florida. Correspondent Scott Pelley said the report continues his look at people hurting in the wake of the Great Recession.
He wanted to focus on children after seeing a Congressional Budget Office projection that the child-poverty rate would soon hit 25 percent. Most of the CBS report concentrates on Seminole County. Pelley talks to Casselberry children, who speak of going to bed hungry and feeling embarrassed.
Two children stand out in the segment: 11-year-old Destiny Corfee, whose family lives in a motel, and Jacob Braverman, 14, whose family moved in with neighbors after losing their home to foreclosure. The report airs at 7 p.m. on WKMG-Channel 6.
Q: You could have gone many places for this story. Why Central Florida?
A: I asked some people at ’60 Minutes’ to explore where the child poverty rate was approaching that [25 percent]. It is particularly acute in Seminole and Osceola and some of the other counties around Orlando. It is one of the most challenged places in the country. So many thousands of people come there from all over the world, and it should be said Disney World provides an enormous number of jobs. But you have this utopian Disney World, and on the outskirts you have about a 21 percent poverty rate for children.
Q: When did you shoot the segment?
A: We shot just before Christmas, in mid-December. We had to keep Christmas decorations out of the shot.
Q: Has anything changed for the families you’ve shown?
A: The Bravermans have moved out of the neighbors’ house and are in a rent-assisted apartment, a program funded through stimulus money. They’re now in an apartment of their own. As for everyone else, I think they’re still in the same situation. Our 60minutes.com website is very dynamic. There will be a lot more there about these families and the issues of child homelessness and poverty.
Q: How many children did you talk to?
A: We put about 40 on camera. I had three producers in that area for two weeks before we brought the cameras down. They probably talked to another 40. We visited families in those motels along [Highway] 192. We’re looking for what ['60 Minutes' creator] Don Hewitt called ‘people who can tell the story better than we can.’
Q: What did you like about Destiny Corfee and Jacob Braverman?
A: What I absolutely loved about them was neither was whining. They answered our questions about what it’s like to be homeless, but each of them went out of their way to say things would get a lot better and we’ll be fine. Destiny says, ‘When we get back on our feet, we’ll be able to help others.’ Jacob says, ‘You can get through anything as long as you have your family together.’ Those are both ideas we put in the piece that said so much about the character of those kids.
Q: What surprised you most about the piece?
A: One of the things that surprised me is how unseen this is. You could pull behind a school bus and never notice that what you’re seeing in front of you is 40 kids coming out of a motel and getting on a school bus. Those families are living in a single room week to week because they cannot afford housing. They could lose it in a week. This is happening all across America. This astounding estimate that 25 percent of kids will be living in poverty suggests how out of sight this problem is.
Q: Do you have any suggestions about what viewers should do?
A: In every county, there is a person like Beth Davalos, the [Seminole] school-district coordinator for homeless kids. She said to me, ‘What do you do about this? If you have a job to give, call the homeless child coordinator in their district and say give me a family that has fallen on hard times.’ That was her suggestion.
Q: Will we see more stories from you about the Great Recession?
A: Absolutely. The Great Recession has been an incredible story to cover, because so many Americans are hurting. We’re told the recession ended in 2009. This is a jobless recovery we’re in. Millions and millions of people are hurting. It grinds on and on and on. We’re raising a generation of kids in hard times. These are formative years for these kids. They know this time as a time of hunger and homelessness. You talk to a lot of older Americans who grew up in the Great Depression who say that it made them better. I wonder if we’re doing the same thing.