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Help for the Homeless?

June 12, 1987

The Metro Section of The Times carried side by side two stories (June 2), in which the dilemma of one could be solved by the dilemma of the other--at least with a few aggressive, creative legislative adjustments.

Eric Malnic reports that the Ambassador Hotel Properties has closed 525 rooms to cut costs in a market glut of hotel rooms and has applied for a permit to destroy them. Penelope McMillan writes about the Skid Row camps on the sidewalks, the first of a series of Times articles climaxing with the Mayor Tom Bradley voucher/Police Chief Daryl Gates arrest sidewalk-clean-sweep program.

For more than a year news media throughout the major cities of the United States have been reporting on the flooding of the streets by families and other "new poor," who have been priced out of single resident occupancy and low-cost housing rentals as a result of redevelopment programs that replace housing units with high-rise office buildings and shopping malls.

Government, church and private agencies offer a great number of programs to assist in job retraining, temporary and some transitional shelter, and feeding programs. But these groups face much the same problem as the Dutch boy trying to stop the hole in the dike with his finger.

Back to the Ambassador's 525 empty rooms: Could not emergency legislation be enacted to give a healthy-sized tax credit to private businesses, individuals and organizations that are in a position similar to that of the Ambassador Hotel, to provide already existing rooms to meet the transitional needs of the homeless?

Yes, there are a lot of drug and alcohol addicts, whose street existence has gone on so long that the reversal of their life pattern is difficult to achieve. But that is not the pattern of the new homeless who have increased in number about 30% in the last two years. All deserve a solution better than tents or the streets.

True, the Ambassador might not want to participate in such a program, no matter how great the tax credit incentive. That's OK. Sound business practices probably wouldn't dictate that as the route to follow. However, the Ambassador's dilemma served to spark an idea in which other private individuals or businesses might like to be involved, and toward which legislators might like to work.

PAT MYERS

La Canada Flintridge

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