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Addressing the Plight of the City's Homeless

April 30, 2001

Undoubtedly, many people identified homeless people they have seen time and again and the changes that occur. Patti Davis' article ("Looking Deep Into the Haunted Eyes of the Homeless," April 11) highlighted the situation very well. Over the past 12 years, we have seen a homeless man [in our area] go from being a fairly clean-cut person to one who has deteriorated so badly it makes us want to cry. St. Joseph Center in Venice sponsors a cafe called Bread & Roses, and there are cards that one can give to homeless people directing them to the cafe and other services that the center offers. Meanwhile, the best thing is to be compassionate and give them a few dollars. A study was done years ago that stated that in most low-paying jobs, people are one paycheck away from being homeless.

--CECELIA and CLIFF WAESCHLE

Malibu

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I get so angry at these poignant descriptions of homelessness that I almost think we should throw the term "homeless person" out and replace it across the board with "bum." I have a question for Ms. Davis: Why didn't she just give some drugs to her blue-eyed, weathered waif? Please don't think that I utterly lack compassion. These are human beings and they are broken. Many of them could be or have been diagnosed mentally ill, but they were relatively normal before they started doing drugs. It's not that more schizophrenics are being born.

Please, let's leave behind the myth of the unlucky homeless person whose life could be turned around by some kindness. It is not kindness to feed the addiction that's killing its host; it is profound cruelty. Support the missions and homeless shelters in the area, fight for addiction recovery programs, vote to increase funding for treatment of the mentally ill. But don't pretend that giving money to an addict is any different than giving that person drugs, and don't feel guilty that you have money and they don't. Feel angry that you live in a culture that accepts a price for its excesses that is paid in human lives.

--RENEE LEASK

Glendale

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Those who say that Americans are deficient in irony obviously do not read the Los Angeles Times. Patti Davis, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, writing a sentimental column about homelessness. Someone on the editorial staff has a sense of humor.

--DONNA HILBERT

Long Beach

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Reading the article brought up so many memories. I am a 16-year-old girl who just got off the streets of Santa Monica about three weeks ago. I was that girl on the sidewalk asking for spare change, watching the people hurry by, carefully not seeing me, watching the cars rush, always forward, glinting in the light and then they are gone before they were ever really there. I was lucky to get out before I was defeated and my spirit destroyed. Many are not so lucky.

--MEGAN RALSTIN

Port Hueneme

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