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L.A.'s Skid Row Sweeps

March 08, 2003

"Cost of Inaction Is Too High" (editorial, March 3) misses the point about the ACLU lawsuit on the homeless sweeps. The purpose of the suit is to stop the pattern of arrests and intimidation that the homeless are continually subjected to. Even The Times agrees that the sweeps are not a part of the solution. The federal lawsuit seeks an injunction against the unnecessary police sweeps that only result in shifting the homeless from one area to another.

Real solutions will require leadership, creativity and, most of all, investment. The fact remains that Los Angeles spends no more than $12.20 per year per homeless person out of locally generated funds. While L.A. spent $500,000 on the problem, Boston spends nearly $5 million.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca's forthcoming proposal appears to address some key problems by providing assisted- housing programs and additional treatment options for those living on the streets. As caretaker of the county's jails, Baca knows that packing the jails with homeless people for doing nothing more than sleeping on the sidewalk is ineffective and costly. We all have an interest in making sure that we find meaningful, permanent solutions to the problem of homelessness. The ACLU's suit seeks to make it clear that using the police to round up the homeless is not an option; it is a waste of the city's resources.

Ramona Ripston

Executive Director

ACLU of Southern California

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L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry admits that a generation ago many on the street would have been in mental institutions ("Enforce Law on Skid Row Streets," Commentary, Feb. 28). Largely thanks to our "great communicator" [former California Gov. Ronald Reagan], we turned people out onto the streets who, by virtue of debilitating mental illness, cannot take care of themselves properly. For these unfortunates, their crime is their inability to provide shelter for themselves. Without vigorous social services, many of these people will never be able to take advantage of affordable housing (even if it existed).

Perry's answer? Have the police sweep them up like garbage. This, my fellow citizens, is the essence of "Third World standard."

Mark Kenaston

Woodland Hills

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Re "Homelessness Should Not Be a Crime," Commentary, Feb. 28: The comment from me that Alice Callaghan quoted related to the fact that the business community is ill equipped to decide how best to treat homeless and mentally ill individuals. I feel strongly that mental health providers, social service agencies and public health experts are the ones most capable of devising programs to provide for these special-needs individuals. When the business community suggests solutions, we are perceived as unknowing and self-serving.

The Central City East Assn. built and maintains a clean, safe and secure facility 12 hours a day, seven days a week, at a cost of over $3,600 a month, where homeless individuals can place their possessions while they go to the welfare office, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or other errands. Solely funded by private property owners and downtown businesses, this facility opened in December 2002. This program was created when Callaghan suggested that there was a great need for a location where persons without homes could store their possessions during the day. So her statement that "downtown businesses take no responsibility for finding a solution" is false.

These cleanups are happening in the industrial food-processing area of downtown, where public health issues are a great concern. Over 37,000 employees work in this area, many handling the food that will eventually end up in retail markets and restaurants throughout Los Angeles; they should be able to walk freely in the neighborhood without intimidation.

The long-needed, live-work residential development is taking place well over eight blocks to the west of skid row. Callaghan's inference that the enforcement of Municipal Code 41.18(d) is a result of development in skid row is ludicrous. Councilwoman Perry's leadership and the LAPD's sensitive enforcement are greatly appreciated by the thousands of businesses, clients and residents in our community.

Tracey Lovejoy

Executive Director

Central City East Assn.

Los Angeles

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