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Assistance for the Homeless

January 25, 1988

The article by Alan Citron, "L.A.'s Indigent Shun Free Bus Ticket Home" (Metro, Jan. 10) makes much of the fact that most homeless people in Los Angeles decline a bus ticket "home."

Lost in the article is the fact that for the vast majority of our homeless residents, "home" is Los Angeles, and there is no housing waiting at the end of an RTD ride to nowhere. The study of the residents of two city shelters cited by Citron found that the average homeless person in the shelters had lived in Los Angeles for nine years. A recent L.A. County study of homeless applicants for general relief found that 58% of homeless men and 83% of homeless women had lived in Los Angeles for four or more years.

How is it then news that homeless people are declining offers of a ticket to nowhere? It is not news, but it is an interesting piece of propaganda for a county government tirelessly devoted to avoiding its responsibilities to its home-grown homeless poor.

The same article speaks of Los Angeles County's bountiful general relief program, which pays those able to perform its many arduous requirements the sum of $280 per month (many California counties offer more) and implies that our community is being flooded with foreigners seeking this "milk and honey." In fact, the same county study found that the fraction of homeless people who did come from other areas came looking for work, or to join family or friends in Los Angeles (as did most of us), long before becoming homeless.

In short, what Citron's article does is to reinforce false stereotypes which have plagued the homeless poor since the Depression, and diverted attention from the critical question of whether, and how, we in Los Angeles can house our own citizens.

GARY L. BLASI

Legal Aid Foundation

Los Angeles

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