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Year of Shelter

January 01, 1988

I find it ironic that as the UN International Year of Shelter for the Homeless comes to an end, headlines during December read "Homelessness Up Sharply Across U.S., Mayors Report," "Homeless Plight Made Worse by a Growing Backlash, Advocates Report," and "The Hurdles are High for Homeless Who Try to Get General Relief."

A little over a year ago, I attended an awards ceremony sponsored by the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which recognized some worthy and innovative projects that deal with homeless people in the Los Angeles area or with national and international problems from a local base. I cannot fault the Los Angeles Times for lack of coverage of the UN IYSH, as this was virtually the only activity which recognized its existence. Even those who were honored that day never again received any more information about the international year.

Apparently, the Reagan Administration had decided to participate only on a low-key level. The word among homeless advocates is that the Administration does not recognize homelessness as a problem in the United States, and thus it would be inappropriate for us to participate on a par with countries like India and Bangladesh.

Ironically, the U.S. program, insofar as it existed, was called "Housing America: Freeing the Spirit of Enterprise." Evidently it was not sufficiently freed to help the thousands of homeless in every major city. The most successful efforts have been by independent agencies, run by heroic men and women, many of them volunteers, others giving up their savings and their own comfortable lives to serve others.

The Times has done an excellent job covering local issues of homelessness this year, as my thick clipping files attest. As the UN IYSH ends, the tragedy continues. We need continuing coverage.

The goal of the UN IYSH is that "all of the poor and disadvantaged shall have a home by the year 2000"--this means not only in Calcutta and Rio, but in Los Angeles and New York too.

DEBRA DENKER

Studio City

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