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Alternative to a Handout

March 20, 1988

As an associate director of a Skid Row mission, the question "To Give or Not to Give" posed in Itabari Njeri's article (Feb. 23) is the most common inquiry I hear. And having worked with the homeless day in and day out for the past 11 years, my answer is usually "no."

Handouts have little to no impact on the lives of the homeless. In fact, in many cases handouts actually help perpetuate homelessness by funding drug and alcohol abuse.

Rather than slip a homeless person pocket change, I suggest sending a donation to one of the dozens of agencies offering meaningful and lasting assistance to the homeless--not only food and shelter, but counseling, job training, substance abuse rehabilitation and other services that address the underlying causes of homelessness.

The important thing to remember is that the chronically homeless are not people who, by some quirk of fate, found themselves living on the streets just yesterday. Their plight is the result of a long deterioration of spirit, a history of joblessness, sometimes substance abuse or mental illness. We need to help them, but we need to make our dollars count by giving them the help they need.

REV. MIKE EDWARDS

Los Angeles Mission

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