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Offering Complex Cure for Homelessness

May 12, 1991

Yes, the residents of Washington's Ward 3 are upset because a homeless shelter is planned for their neighborhood ("Not in Their Back Yard," May 2). If this shelter is merely a place for homeless people to sleep at night before being turned loose in the morning, then those residents may be justified in their concern.

For most homeless people, homelessness is a symptom, not a root cause, of their problems. In fact, our very use of the word homeless hinders us in addressing the problem, for the causes of homelessness are many and complex, and so are the solutions.

In addition to low-cost housing, we must provide professional counseling, transitional housing, literacy training, job skills training, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, mental health care programs and ways to deliver these and other services in a coordinated, cost-effective manner.

According to your story, the new director of Washington's Department of Human Services intends to mount such a coordinated effort. We at the Weingart Center know from our experience that a supermarket of centralized services can effect a permanent exit from the street for many homeless people.

MAXENE JOHNSTON

President

Weingart Center

Los Angeles

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