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November 19, 1989

In his letter (Nov. 6), West Hollywood resident Tad Bright points out a disastrous result of some community-based programs for the homeless.

Over the last few years, several public and private groups have begun feeding the homeless in parks and other public places. But while well-intended, their efforts reflect a lack of understanding about the people they are attempting to serve and, in most cases, have resulted in a backlash of resentment toward the homeless.

In Los Angeles, the majority of homeless are chronically homeless. They suffer from mental illness, substance abuse and/or serious emotional impairments that prevent them from functioning successfully in society. Feeding them without addressing the underlying reasons they are living on the streets has the effect of keeping them on the streets. And that isn't healthy for them or our communities.

The greatest need among the chronically homeless is rehabilitation. Of course, that is a big job, and beyond the resources of most individual communities.

That's why community leaders should adopt policies to refer the homeless to the dozens of private agencies with comprehensive programs already in place, and where possible, direct funding to those agencies to support an increase in caseload.

This way, communities can care for the homeless without disrupting entire neighborhoods.


Associate Director

Los Angeles Mission

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