Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 06, 2004

Bush initiative will do more to help homeless

While in Baltimore in August to address homeless organizations receiving funding from one of many Bush administration initiatives, I was greatly surprised to read Richard Pretorius' column "Homeless get little aid" (Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 24).

Since coming into office, this administration increased targeted resources for homeless people to historic levels. In December 2003, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a record $1.3 billion funding initiative to provide nearly 700,000 individuals with the housing and services needed to become self-sufficient.

And in 2002, President Bush challenged the nation to end chronic homelessness within 10 years. In his fiscal 2005 budget, President Bush sharpened his focus on homelessness by proposing the Samaritan Initiative, which enjoys bipartisan support in Congress.

As the name implies, the Samaritan Initiative targets those "left on the side of the road." These chronically homeless people suffer from disabling developmental, physical or mental conditions or substance abuse, and have generally been homeless for a year or more. And although just 10 percent of the homeless population is chronically homeless, they consume over half of all emergency shelter resources.

Contrary to simply being a "feel-good name," as Mr. Pretorius calls it, the Samaritan Initiative is intentionally targeted to those who are on our streets and most likely to die.

Sadly, Congress failed to allot any funding for the Samaritan Initiative in HUD's 2005 funding bill. Why? The overwhelming reason was that resources were needed to fund Section 8 housing.

The Section 8 program was created in 1975 to help low-income families rent housing in the private market. Over the past four years, funding for Section 8 has increased by 41 percent. It now consumes more than half of HUD's budget.

This growth is unsustainable, so the president sought a way to preserve the program. HUD's proposed reform is known as the Flexible Voucher Program.

The Samaritan Initiative is based on strong data, and it will work. It represents an unprecedented interagency collaboration that would combine resources from various agencies into a single program.

Philip Mangano

Washington

The writer was appointed by President Bush as executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2002.

Removal of trees dims downtown

Between looking at billboards or trees, I'll take trees, please ("Controversy sprouts from trees' removal," Aug. 30).

Trees not only provide shade for humans, but also provide migratory birds that come through the area with an important stopping ground while they make their way in both spring and fall.

Baltimore teems with bird life during the migratory seasons. Trees in the city provide important shelter, especially when they have hit a building and need a quiet spot to recover from their collision. Sadly, many do not recover.

Development and suburban sprawl have gobbled up migratory bird stopping grounds, so urban trees have a very important role for birds.

City officials say Clear Channel Outdoor did everyone a "favor" by cutting down the trees. I beg to differ.

Wendy Olsson

Baltimore

Shame on 1st Mariner Bank Chairman Edwin F. Hale Sr. and Clear Channel Outdoor for removing trees from downtown Baltimore.

And where was Mayor Martin O'Malley when all this was taking place?

Mary Fineagan

Forest Hill

Why should we pay to clean up the bay?

The Sun's article "At the Water's Edge" (Aug. 29) correctly states that Chesapeake Bay country has "thousands of miles of tidal shoreline" but "all but a small percentage of it is off-limits to the public."

I do not own a boat. I do not own any shoreline property. For all I care, the bay can be a cesspool. Why must I pay a "flush tax" when the closest I'll ever get to the water is my annual trip over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge?

Let the high-dollar boaters and beachfront property owners pay for their own playground.

David Heston

Glen Arm

Invest in more jobs for low-skill workers

The Sun's article "Affluent state impoverished at urban core" (Aug. 27) correctly pointed out that Maryland's overall prosperity is marred by pockets of concentrated poverty and joblessness.

But it overstated by a factor of 10 the predicted number of jobs that afford good wages and career advancement potential to low-skill workers in the Baltimore region. Of the nearly 43,000 projected job openings through 2006, fewer than 1,800 are specifically for workers with post-secondary or vocational training, not the 18,000 the article noted.

These "middle-tier" jobs are important because they provide decent pay and benefits to underemployed Marylanders who can then improve their skills and education.

Most of the state's current projected low-skill job openings fail to offer a road out of poverty for too many families.

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