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Everyone's Responsibility

November 11, 1987

The Los Angeles City Council compassionately opened its chambers to homeless people last winter. The council members can demonstrate their compassion again by allowing trailers for homeless families in their districts before the weather turns colder.

The trailers, the brainchild of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, will provide warm and decent shelter, primarily for single mothers and their children.

At Bradley's urging, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency bought 105 used trailers with housing funds. Housing Authority and other city officials have worked quickly to place the trailers at public housing projects, but some members of the council--and some residents--have objected.

The trailers will serve as transitional housing until families can find more permanent accommodations. Families may stay for six months. The parents will get help in finding child care, jobs and better housing. The children will attend school without disruption. The respite will allow some families to get off the streets permanently, but only if the city can find enough places for the trailers and only if enough members of the council are willing to help.

Councilmen Ernani Bernardi, who represents the east San Fernando Valley and Councilman Robert Farrell, who represents part of South-Central Los Angeles, are willing. Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents Watts and the Harbor is also willing, but she asks that every member of the council share the responsibility. That is only fair and expedient. Homelessness is a problem throughout Los Angeles.

Council members aren't the only ones who have to give their approval. Housing authorities are also asking the families who live in public housing to be equally compassionate. Many have objected; a few have even picketed. But the charitable residents of the Jordan Downs projects in Watts have approved. They are willing to accept homeless families as neighbors. We hope their compassion is contagious.

Council members who do not have public housing in their districts can also accept homeless families as neighbors. They can identify churches, synagogues and nonprofit agencies that will accept a trailer and a homeless family if the city cannot come up with enough slots. They can strengthen the city's attempt to provide shelter.

The council is not obligated to provide for men, women or children who live in cars or on the streets. Legally, that is a county responsibility, but county leaders are much too slow to respond. Morally, it is a shared responsibility.

Mayor Bradley is determined to house homeless families this winter. As the weather gets colder, the Los Angeles City Council should quickly demonstrate their compassion for the homeless children and adults who live on the streets.

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