Al Martinez and the Homeless

May 11, 1986

Al Martinez, in his April 17 column, announced that he is about to undertake a study on the homeless, whom he calls "bums." He (said he) will identify subjects for his study through his "keen sense of smell." After all, "A bum . . . smells very much like a mixture of dead dog and stale whiskey, especially on warm days."

Where has Martinez been for the last five years? Has he not read any of the hundreds of articles which recount the plight of the homeless or attended forums at which city officials, social service providers, religious and civic organizations and business people struggle to solve the problems of the homeless? Is he unaware that the city of Santa Monica has courageously committed itself to fair treatment of those who live without shelter on the Westside?

If Martinez would like to learn about the homeless, we urge him to join one of the community-based groups organized to address the problems of people without shelter. One such group is the Westside Shelter Coalition which was established in 1982 to (1) assess the needs of homeless people and the resources available; (2) inform (and) educate the community on the homeless; (3) facilitate the implementation of resources for the homeless. Because we believe:

- People have the right to human dignity.

- People have a right to . . . basic shelter, food, clothing, health care and hygiene facilities.

- The condition of homelessness is most often not the result of individual pathology, but is a consequence of economic, social conditions and attitudes in our society.

- Given the basic resources of shelter, food, hygiene facilities and medical care, many homeless people will make transitions from dependence to independence and desperation to stability.

- All of us--the sheltered and the homeless--have a basic right and ability to control our own lives and to work together cooperatively to maintain resources which strengthen our community, provide for the most basic of human needs and which protect the human dignity of us all.



Westside Shelter Coalition

Santa Monica

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