WASHINGTON — Street people and their supporters rallied Monday on Capitol Hill to demand government funds for permanent, low-income housing rather than shelters for the homeless.
About 60 homeless people and others converged on the south lawn of the Capitol. They displayed three white cardboard crosses bearing the names of dozens of people who have died while living on the streets. Some of the signs read: "Not One More Dollar for Shelters. More Dollars for Permanent Housing" and "Shelters Break Up Families."
Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) told the gathering: "It seems to me, during the Christmas season, some thought should go out to (those) who've died on the streets, but what does (Congress) do when we tell them to help the homeless? They tell us there's no money."
Kennedy blamed the Reagan Administration for forcing cuts in the amount of money Congress voted to aid homeless people. "The facts are this country is no longer committed to the people," he said.
Homeless Put at 3 Million
The homeless population is rapidly growing, said Maria Foscarinia of the National Coalition for the Homeless, which organized the nationwide demonstration effort. "We are all across the country. There are 3 million homeless, and almost half are families, and the numbers are growing.
"We need permanent, low-income housing," said Peter Skillern of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. "Money is going toward shelters, but an increase in shelters is marked by a decrease in low-income housing. That's a loss." Along with black arm bands and signs, the coalition handed out sandwiches, soup and cookies.
Vigil in Boston
In Boston, about 100 homeless mothers, children and supporters sang Christmas carols and heard speeches during an afternoon vigil at the Statehouse.
"We're hoping in the New Year that's coming that the 10,000 to 12,000 homeless families and children will be housed," said Charlene Gilbert of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.