President Reagan will not join the millions of Americans expected to reach out Sunday to hold "Hands Across America," but he will proclaim it Hands Across America Day and mention the effort to raise as much as $100 million for the nation's hungry in his weekly radio broadcast Saturday, his spokesman said in Washington.
Larry Speakes said Thursday that Reagan will sign a proclamation calling for appropriate observance of the occasion. Organizers hope to have people hold hands along a 4,152-mile route running from Long Beach to New York City.
Speakes was asked whether the line of participants, which will pass along the south fence of the White House, would be rerouted across the grounds in order for Reagan, who will be home for the weekend, to take part.
"No, I don't think that will be done," Speakes replied.
On Wednesday, Reagan told a group of high school students that people in America are not hungry "simply by reason of denial or lack of ability to feed them. It is by people not knowing where or how to get this help."
The President, without mentioning Hands Across America by name, noted, "Not only is the government doing much . . . but there has been about a three-time increase in private charity and aid in our country."
Responding to Reagan's comments in Los Angeles on Thursday, Roger Carrick, California director of Hands Across America, told a news conference that he hopes that Reagan will learn from the nationwide project that there is a need for shelter and food for America's poor.
At the same news conference, called to showcase a "state-of-the-art" shelter for the homeless in San Fernando Valley, Tanya Tull, founder of the Para Los Ninos shelter for Skid Row families and children, said Reagan's comments were "absolutely false. . . . There are thousands of men, women and children in Los Angeles everyday who are hungry, who have no recourse, and are going through the proper channels and are still hungry."
Carrick said, " . . . I think that Hands Across America will do for the President what it's done for a lot of people, and that is underscore the . . . need to deal with the problem of hunger and homelessness, whether it's a problem of education or resources. . . . Hands Across America will help our leaders like President Reagan move the item up the agenda."
Carrick said the real message behind Sunday's event is the effort to raise money and public consciousness to address the needs of the homeless.