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'On the Streets, Promises Unkept'

November 20, 1987

Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was a half-idea--it freed some people who did not need the total care an institution provides; it also freed thousands more who require 24-hour care and treatment to avoid being a danger to themselves and others.

The sad and unpopular fact is that many of these people have irreversible mental disorders from which they will never recover. To withhold absolutely necessary institutional care because it fails to meet our ideals of "community-based care" with its "chances of recovery" is unrealistic and ultimately cruel.

The task is clear. While we are awaiting the millions of dollars which will some day provide ideal treatment for all, the homeless mentally ill must be cared for--voluntarily or involuntarily, in hospitals or boarding houses, in disused army camps if necessary.

No good-faith effort should be dismissed as a "retreat" while our ill wander our streets and eat from our garbage.

H. HILBORN

San Diego

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