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Distorted Picture

August 24, 1986

It would be amusing if it weren't so serious that the media perpetuate the myth that San Diego County takes excellent care of its homeless population. In actuality, this position is a logical absurdity. If we are America's Finest City regarding our homeless population, the original 1983 estimate of 5,000 homeless individuals would not have increased to a current estimate of 6,000.

Yet, both "60 Minutes" of CBS and your three-page coverage of Aug. 4 ("Homeless in San Diego") were splashy but inaccurate. Naturally, shelter operators exude enthusiasm for all their work in sheltering individuals. Full protection, however, is far from even adequately addressed.

Consider: Not only is the number of homeless people increasing, there is a record number of homeless women and children. Note that women are not allowed in the Life Ministries' Program because they are "a distraction that just don't enhance spiritual growth." It is a fitting aspect of your coverage that the only woman photographed ("Vicki") had to sleep on a bench under the scant protection of a streetlight while others ("Hoppes") spent the night on the floor of the YWCA.

I hope that San Diego's increasing army of homeless men, women and children take consolation in the myth that we are caring and humane as they cope with the fear and stress of robbery and rape, and manage to survive on aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic bags and plasma sales.

Perhaps the media are right. Perhaps the love affair with our homeless became so intense that we increased them to 6,000.

The government takes no responsibility in sheltering our homeless. The private sector does a gallant job in the face of overwhelming odds, but this is not enough.

Unfortunately, no governmental leadership will emerge to shelter these individuals as long as the masses believe we are a model city. Keep this in mind before we pat ourselves on the back.

COLLEEN FAHEY FEARN

San Diego

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