The medium is television, but the message is far more powerful than "L.A. Law."
For the homeless women and children living in a "transitional housing" shelter at Sarah's House, a new television and videocassette recorder offer more than a chance to watch the season openers.
They also provide the backdrop for seminars on child care, nutrition, first aid, career planning and job interviewing skills.
"This is more of a tool, an educational tool," said Susan Thompson, assistant director of Sarah's House, an emergency shelter for the homeless located on the grounds of Fort George G. Meade.
In the high-tech '90s, workshop leaders from groups such as Health Care for the Homeless often arrive at the shelter armed with videos, Thompson said.
"One of the most important parts of this program is training," she said. "Women, especially women with children who haven't worked in years, have the greatest difficulty in breaking the cycle of homelessness."
Members of the Telephone Pioneers of America in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties last week donated the television and VCR to the transitional housing program that opened in August.
With its pine furniture, soft lights and modern television, the cozy living room in the former Army barracks looks as inviting as one in any modern home.
But the five homeless women enrolled in the transitional program at Sarah's House have no time to lounge around watching the afternoon soaps. They are busy trying to start a new life.
"This just gives us a chance," said Robyn Weston, who is sharing one of the seven private apartments with her 2-year-old daughter, Laura, and 4-month-old son, Brian, until she gets back on her feet.
Weston packed her bags last month and moved two doors down from the women's dormitory in the emergency shelter to the renovated, two-story former barracks that houses the transitional program. She can stay there for up to 18 months while working to find a permanent job and home.
Although Weston is looking forward to seeing videos on proper nutrition for infants, she also admits she can't wait for the first movie night, to relax and munch popcorn with the others.
"It gets pretty hectic with a 2-year-old on your hands," she said.
The television is the second donated to Sarah's House by the Telephone Pioneers, a non-profit volunteer organization of telephone industry employees that raises money for charities.
Larry Tiberia, president of the 753-member area chapter, called Sarah's House last month to offer a washer and dryer, but was told the transitional program already had those appliances. The group agreed instead to raise $500 to buy a television and VCR at a discount from Rickey's TV & Audio-Video Center in Annapolis.
The next big-ticket item the transitional shelter desperately needs is a van, Thompson said.
Many women wind up finding only low-paying jobs at fast-food restaurants and gas stations in the Fort Meade area because they lack transportation. Sarah's House only owns one van, which is in constant demand for trips to the county Department of Social Services and job-training programs.
The homeless who don't own cars frequently are trapped in a Catch-22 because they can't find jobs without transportation and can't afford a car without solid wages, Thompson said.