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Help for the homeless

October 18, 2008

Re "Homeless and burned to death," Opinion, Oct. 14

Much has been written about the death of John McGraham, by people who knew him from the neighborhood and by people, like me, who didn't know him but who are outraged by this horrifying act of brutality.

As the leader of a nonprofit focused on ending homelessness and poverty and as a citizen of Los Angeles, I am saddened to my core by this murder. We as a community must end the crisis of homelessness in L.A. County.

Joel John Roberts points out that state funding for such critical services as shelters, food banks and transitional housing is disappearing because of the budget shortfall. It is vitally important that we all realize that the future strength of our economy and the fortitude of our workforce depend on how we systematically attack homelessness. Coordinated efforts that include better access to healthcare, job training and permanent housing could mean the difference between life and death for many of the 73,000 homeless people who live in L.A. County.

John McGraham didn't have to die. Let his devastating struggle re-energize us to work as a community to end homelessness.

Elise Buik

Los Angeles

The writer is president and chief executive of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

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Re "Homeless but not alone," Oct. 13

Every day, homeless people are left to die on the street. McGraham died a particularly horrific death.

This is entirely unnecessary. We now have a law on the books, Laura's Law, which requires severely and chronically mentally ill people to receive involuntary mental health services that would enable them to live independently. However, counties do not have to participate in the program, which gives wraparound services to these severely ill individuals. Los Angeles County does participate, but the funding is woefully inadequate.

People should write their county supervisor urging the expansion of the implementation of Laura's Law so that the John McGrahams of our county can lead normal lives.

Katherine G. Minsk

Long Beach

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