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L.A. Camp for Homeless

October 23, 1994

The article "Homeless Camp Weighed in L.A. Industrial Area" (Oct. 14) greatly concerns me, and many homeless advocates with whom I've spoken.

A plan to shuttle homeless people to a four-to-six-acre fenced lot, with no rules on drugs, was described as a major component of a joint city and county effort to reduce homelessness. Fifty beds, along with restrooms, a shower area and a large grass area for "resting purposes" will not reduce the number of homeless people. And this type of environment is neither appropriate nor safe for the most rapidly growing segment of the homeless population--women and children.

A more realistic approach to the homeless problem is for government to work alongside the existing social agencies that have much more experience with the issue of homelessness to pursue long-term solutions.

With over 103 years experience, the Union Rescue Mission is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness. Along with many other social service agencies Downtown, we provide comprehensive programs that attack the problems that made them homeless in the first place. Our programs include training in the occupational skills that help secure jobs, guidance and practical experience with managing personal finances, counseling and family services, youth outreach, and chapel services where God's love can be shared and demonstrated.

Earlier this month thousands of community members, along with business leaders and government representatives visited our new 225,000-square-foot facility, which has an 810-bed capacity--with separate facilities for women and children. It's complete with a health center to be staffed by the UCLA School of Nursing, a learning center, a gymnasium and children's play areas.

Why doesn't government spend $4 million on programs that will make a difference--like helping those with mental illnesses or drug abuse problems, or subsidizing housing move-in costs--$4 million could pay for thousands of apartments and many hours of professional treatment.


Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles

* The appalling plan of the Riordan Administration and Central City Assn. (CCA) to re-create Nazi Germany in Downtown Los Angeles is no short-term, and definitely not long-term, solution to homelessness. Since when did the mark of a civilized society translate into providing camps rather than decent and permanent housing? The plan itself is inhumane and indecent, and continues a pattern of injustice for the least, the last and the lost in our society.

For several years, Downtown business interests have been deriding the homeless, rather than putting forth strategies for economic development that include the homeless and their social providers. Such an effort would address the real problem of failing bottom lines and the cause of homelessness, which is a struggling local economy. Rather than building concentration camps for the homeless with U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds, the Riordan Administration should be exploring opportunities to bestow dignity and a sense of empowerment among the homeless.


Director of Economic Development

West Angeles Church of God in Christ

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