Thank you for the heartbreaking pictures of the denizens of skid row (Dec. 16).
As a citizen of the richest country in the world, I feel shame that there are homeless people in our cities, in skid rows and elsewhere. A fair number of these people are families with children.
I fail to understand why we have given the richest taxpayers tax cuts worth over $400 billion. This amount of money would more than erase the deficits in every single state and allow funds to provide housing and services to those who are living on the streets.
I fail to understand how we can send billions to Iraq to build schools while in Los Angeles our children attend schools in various states of disrepair.
President Bush's education program remains without adequate funding. Shame on the selfishness of our government and of so many of our citizens who care only about their own wealth. Shame on Bush and his right-wing supporters who lack compassion for those less fortunate than themselves.
I understand that the main problem with these tragic people is mental illness. Most of them cannot cope with normal situations. They struggle to stay alive each day and have no hope of ever having a decent life. They are at the very bottom of the social strata, even below prisoners. They are truly the "untouchables."
You said that "no remedy appears in sight." This is because we turn our sight away from these people because they have no one to speak for them -- no families, no large organized group to make demands from our system. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and pride ourselves on our compassion, and yet how many of us glanced at your revealing, sad photos and quickly turned the page?
Your article by David Ferrell and photo essay by Genaro Molina remind us most poignantly of the suffering that defines the life of the homeless who live in our midst. At the Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children, a few short blocks from skid row, we help our guests rebuild their lives with dignity and love. Now in our 20th year of serving the homeless, we are planning a fifth facility to enable us to serve the rapidly increasing number of women and children who live on our city's streets.
Our program works; residents become strong and learn to become independent, self-sufficient citizens. Thank you for shining a light on the needs of Los Angeles' homeless -- we welcome the assistance of other caring Angelenos in this work.
Sister Julia Mary Farley
Director, Good Shepherd Center
I read with incredulity Los Angeles Catholic Worker Jeff Dietrich's Dec. 4 letter. For Dietrich to suggest that "some nonprofit organizations continue to import families into the skid row area because, let's face it, children and playgrounds are much more appealing on your fundraising brochures" represents the most misguided cynicism that I have encountered in a long time. Since the Union Rescue Mission purchased and razed the property in question and now plans, for the interim, to have a play area for the many children who have migrated to skid row, his comments are quite intentionally directed and blatantly foolish.
Of course skid row is no place for children. But the 2000 census documents 619 children living on skid row. Most of these kids and their parent(s) eke out an existence living in one of the neighborhood single-room-occupancy hotels. If Dietrich had visited the Union Rescue Mission on the night before his letter was published, he would have found 130 children sleeping in our shelter, which is a typical nightly number. These children are here because their parents have lost their homes and the family has nowhere else to go. To suggest that we "imported" them for our own purposes is disgusting.
Ralph E. Plumb
President, Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles