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Gregory Wragg has spent his fair share of time and effort aiding Washington, D.C.’s homeless community. But when he first began developing the concept for his homeless-issues-based STREATS Television series a year ago, the 44-year-old District Heights resident quickly decided that the best course of action would be to take the bulk of the work out of his hands.
“Instead of trying to sell [the homeless] on a concept, I decided to let them develop a concept,” Wragg says of the show, for which he serves as executive producer. “I sponsored six individuals to go through some training at DCTV, and in the process they learned about camerawork, camera angles, storylines, editing, directing. That saved me the process of having to do any of that or bringing in anybody to do that. Basically, I said, ‘Why don’t you guys just do the whole thing?’”
STREATS, an acronym for “Strives to Reach, Educate, and Transform Society,” “utilizes homeless and formerly homeless individuals to film, direct, host, commentate, and act out different aspects of homelessness in a comical, sarcastic, yet serious way,” according to the show’s Web site, streats.tv. “You hear that [the homeless] have a voice, but after a while that voice starts to sound the same. The stories sound the same; they run over one another,” Wragg says. “I wanted to actually find a way that we could get our message out, but in a manner that people would listen to it.”
So far, Wragg and his cast and crew—which includes individuals involved with Street Sense newspaper, Central Union Mission, and Gospel Rescue Ministries—have completed seven 30-minute episodes that are set to run on public television stations in D.C., Prince George’s County, and Arlington County in November. (The television schedule will be posted on the show’s Web site once it becomes available.) The first episode, “Gotta Go,” focuses on the daily challenge of relieving one’s self with at least some degree of privacy; later episodes examine the various ways in which the homeless find food and how they obtain proper medical care. Featured in each episode are several recurring cast members, including Cliff Carle, the host of the “Cliff Notes” question-and-answer segments, and Brenda Wilson, aka “BelieveO’Bull Brenda,” who discusses many of the difficulties faced by the homeless—some of which are the kinds of things that would make homeless people wary of a man waving a video camera in their faces.
“There’s a level of trust that you have to get in order to even gain access to their territory,” Wragg says.
Once that trust was gained, however, Wragg found that he had a crew every bit as responsible and dedicated as any professional crew with which he had worked previously.
“The production would pretty much be Saturday mornings at 9 o’clock. No doughnuts, no perks, nothing,” Wragg says. “I’d just come there, and they’d be ready to go—a little hungover, sometimes, but we run them for a little bit, and then they’re all set.”