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Leadership to End Homelessness

May 26, 1997

As a person who has been involved in working with homeless youth and families for over 12 years, I want to respond to "Recovery Does Little to Help L.A. Homeless" (May 19). Homelessness does not just rest in the hands of Mayor Richard Riordan. We all have to take responsibility.

Only when former homeless people, community-based organizations, homeless agencies and advocates, business leaders, public officials and residents invest in meaningful dialogue to end homelessness will there be change. We need to look at creative methods of homeless intervention. For example, let's look at the successful model for emergency planning for people displaced by disasters such as when FEMA responded to the homeless victims of the Northridge earthquake. L.A. homeless officials could mobilize leaders from diverse constituencies to work together to eradicate homelessness.

The rich become richer and the poor become homeless. That is because we do not have a comprehensive plan to address the complexities of homeless issues. Skid Row and Hollywood are not the only areas where homeless individuals exist. Homeless people are also living in such communities as Pico-Union, West L.A., Santa Monica and East L.A. In these communities, the public must know that there are thousands of children, youths, families, single men and women who sleep on a friend's couch, share single rooms, or dwell in a garage before they even reach the homeless state. Not all homeless individuals are crack addicts or panhandlers. A significant majority of homeless people are hard-working, and hoping for better opportunities.

If we really want, we can prevent homelessness. It begins by drawing multiple viewpoints from committed civic representatives and from L.A.'s leadership.

REV. RICHARD ESTRADA, CMF

Executive Director

Jovenes, Los Angeles

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