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Homeless Need Help and Hope

June 18, 2005

Re "First Truth About the Homeless: Nobody Cares," Commentary, June 12: Douglas MacKinnon rightly pointed out that there are no easy answers to their misery. Disappointing, though, is his comment that "we also have to admit that many are beyond any real help or hope" as they suffer from a combination of addictions and mental disabilities, and so we should just "help the rest."

Hold on. We need not give up on them either. In Ventura County, the Homeless Outreach Program & Enhanced Services of our mental health system makes a difference for them. HOPES means seeing the homeless as people and going to where they are, building trust, empowering them to access services, setting goals and providing whatever it takes to instill hopefulness and recovery.

Thankfully, the Mental Health Services Act passed by California voters last November can multiply such programs across the state. Public support for shelters and transitional housing (yes, in our neighborhoods) will also make a difference.

Larry Johnson

Member, Ventura Co.

Mental Health Board

Thousand Oaks


The nation's homeless are truly the unseen society that local, state and federal governments continue to neglect. Politicians don't care because the homeless have no power. They don't vote or contribute money to politicians' campaigns, so they have no clout.

It's tragic to see so many senior citizens struggling to survive on the cold street. They, like all the other unfortunates, should have the security of a place to live, and that is the great tragedy of this nation that finds the money to aid disaster victims at home and abroad, but not the very people facing the disaster of each day's struggle for survival.

Homelessness hit my family. Two of my sons' lives unraveled and they wound up on the street, and this harsh life played a role in their deaths, six months apart, Scott in Santa Monica and Blake in Thousand Oaks.

I live with the shame of their deaths, realizing that for most homeless people, once they fall through the cracks, they are mired in this level of society and are unable to find a job because they have no home address or phone or are laden with emotional problems that go unaided and scare off employers. So they give up and maintain their dead-end nonexistence existence.

Perhaps if politicians had homeless members in their families, they would be motivated to act and eliminate the problem.

Eliot Tiegel


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