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Long Beach Homeless Left Out in the Cold

April 18, 1991

A recent article by Roxana Kopetman (Times, April 4) raised the hair on my back. The subject of the story was the eviction of a group of Long Beach's homeless to make way for the upcoming Grand Prix. To quote Sheila Pagnani, the so-called homeless-service coordinator of Long Beach: "When you invite friends over to a party, you clean your house, don't you? Well, so does the city." Anyone who has ever hurriedly cleaned up a mess that has been neglected until the last minute should be familiar with another part of this embarrassingly appropriate analogy: "Sweep it under the carpet."

Certainly these mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have come to find themselves ground down by economic circumstance, blown hard on the prevailing winds of our cruel indifference, are easily swept. Can the fabric of this country continue covering up the ever-increasing number of its dispossessed before the seams are revealed? We are talking about human beings of "freedom." There is no freedom in being driven out of town for the sake of a party, no matter who is invited! Whose living room is it, anyway?

It is up to the people of Long Beach to decide whether they are happy with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality when it comes to those in need. A feather pillow can become sidewalk-solid for a conscience deftly stung. This is a nationwide problem that will not slink away quietly. We must set an example in our own back yard, if there is to be any hope for compassion and honesty in dealing with this urgent issue.

I hope that if ever again I find myself living outside in the chilling evening air of Long Beach (as I did in April, 1989) the police are not carrying out the annual sorting of the citizenry. Of course, if, as City Manager James C. Hankla said, the timing of the city's cleanup and the Grand Prix is coincidental, luck has not been a lady for the homeless in at least three years.

ROBERT DeLAURIER

Long Beach

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