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Award Boosts Homeless Cause

November 05, 1990|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The late Mitch Snyder's name is still synonymous with the cause of the homeless.

His name graced the award the Spare Change Project presented to Patricia Shelhamer on Thursday at the Beverly Hills Hotel during a reception/fashion show/concert that raised $25,000 for Shelhamer's Family Assistance Program. Her Los Angeles project helps homeless families find housing, jobs and services that will enable them to re-enter mainstream society.

The Spare Change Project, the fund-raising arm of the Family Assistance Program, plans to present the Mitch Snyder Humanitarian Award every year.

"Before we were just local. This gives us a national presence," said Spare Change founder Linda Ford.

Snyder, the nationally known advocate for the homeless, committed suicide in July, and the presentation of the first award gave some of the 400 present a chance to remember him.

"He was the epitome of what was said about Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker," said actor Martin Sheen, who had played Snyder in a TV movie, "Samaritan--The Mitch Snyder Story" two years ago. "She (Day) comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. That was Mitch.

"His death was an earthquake in my community and my soul," Sheen added. "I'm still shaking. But enough time has passed that we can celebrate his life."

Actress Valerie Harper said Snyder's suicide was an "extraordinary shock," and that she was amazed that "anyone with those troubles, those demons, could find such a marvelous way to contribute. He didn't crawl up in a ball. . . . His girlfriend, Carol Fennelly, said at his memorial, 'He was too committed to quit and too exhausted to go on.' "

There were words from Los Angeles Raider defensive end Greg Townsend (who helped underwrite the event), emcee Casey Kasem, Sheen, Shelhamer and actress Joyce DeWitt. Then there was a high-energy show from the Club Monaco sportswear line (another underwriter), followed by a half-hour acoustic set from Stephen Bishop, who had rushed over from a Big Green initiative fund-raiser at Jane Fonda's home.

There was no mistaking that Snyder was going to be missed.

"Winter is coming. Snow is starting to fall in our Eastern cities," Sheen said.

"People are going to die, a lot of them. And there's no Mitch Snyder saying, 'This is an outrage. This is immoral. This is obscene.' "

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