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The homeless problem

The homeless problem — ”Life Stinks” and ”Jeremiah Pollock: An American Saint” deal with a growing issue

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Gorgeous dwellings with designer decor are making the scene in recent movies — just look at Ghost, Three Men and a Little Lady, and Pacific Heights. But all filmmakers aren’t lost in dream-house fantasies. The sad increase in urban homelessness has sparked two movies on both ends of the commercial spectrum: Life Stinks, directed by and starring Mel Brooks, with Lesley Ann Warren, and first-time executive producer Tim Disney’s Jeremiah Pollock: An American Saint, a drama about a yuppie obsessed with helping skid row residents.

Disney’s film, directed by Eames Demetrios, is fiction, but many of the actors are authentic. ”It doesn’t sit right when you see a high-priced actor playing a homeless person,” says the 29-year-old son of Walt Disney Co. vice-chairman Roy E. Disney. So homeless people make up one-third of the cast and crew. Disney also plans to donate some of the film’s profits to organizations helping the homeless. He’s considerably less kind about his fellow filmmaker’s efforts. ”Brooks hired from Central Casting,” he says. ”He’s not putting one dime into (the homeless) community.”

Brooks denies that. Life Stinks, a comedy-drama about a billionaire who bets he can survive on the streets, is ”a union film,” he says. ”The actors had to be members of the Screen Actors Guild. We hired the homeless for non- union jobs, like car parking and crowd control.” Brooks also donated food and clothing to the homeless. Of Disney’s film, he adds, ”They’re to be commended, I admire anybody’s efforts to work with the homeless.”