Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 29, 2004

Smaller supply of housing units tears safety net

Baltimore has created several new, attractive mixed-income communities on the sites of former family high-rise public housing communities -- but at the price of losing about 2,000 units of affordable family housing.

Families who receive housing vouchers to rent privately owned housing units compete for the limited supply of affordable units currently available -- a market that is becoming increasingly competitive.

And after reading the editorial "Homeless death toll" (Dec. 22), which noted that about 3,000 people in the city are without homes, we are very disturbed to see that the city plans to further reduce the number of public housing units from 14,000 to 11,000.

What has happened to the concept of local government providing a safety net for its most vulnerable citizens?

Ruth Crystal Kitty Stierhoff Baltimore

The writers are co-chairs of the Baltimore City/Baltimore County League of Women Voters.

Let private charities handle the homeless

As The Sun's editorial "Homeless death toll" (Dec. 22) made abundantly clear, homelessness is a serious problem in Baltimore and around the country. And I'm sure that most readers would agree that something must be done. However, I take issue with The Sun's assumption that government intervention, at both the state and federal level, is the answer.

State programs, to use The Sun's own words, focus on managing, not ending, the problem.

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society took hold almost 40 years ago, we've spent trillions of dollars on poverty programs, with little to show for it.

In fact, these programs have only increased dependency on government aid. And most government programs are tremendously inefficient and often misallocate resources.

Poverty is not a "market failure," and it should not be treated as such. History has taught us that more government spending and higher minimum wages do not get at the root of the problem.

Private charities existed long before government programs; they are more efficient and more effective in keeping people off the streets.

Rob Dauses

Carney

Life on the streets takes terrible toll

Thanks to Dan Rodricks for bringing us some perspective on the wide disparity between the haves and have-nots in Baltimore ("Amid luxury, a remembrance of the lowly," Dec. 26).

I never met Jeff Leishear, but I have met hundreds of men in similar circumstances. And as the director of a transitional housing program for homeless men, I am reminded daily of how fragile life can be.

As unfortunate as it is that Mr. Leishear had to die on the street, the workers who befriended him gave him a great gift by validating him and now his life. His death is yet another reminder for all of us who live comfortably that there are many who do not.

It is crucial that we support programs that are working to eradicate homelessness and save the lives of others.

Sheila Helgerson

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Earl's Place.

Don't let soldiers from Iraq, U.S. mix

The suicide bomber who blew up the mess tent in Mosul was apparently dressed as an Iraqi soldier ("Bomber wore Iraqi uniform, U.S. believes," Dec. 24).

This means that either the Iraqis are brigaded with U.S. troops or that the Iraqis have access to U.S. bases.

A competent commander-in-chief would consider the Iraqis unreliable (as a matter of course, just as a person familiar with firearm safety considers every gun loaded), and would have them occupy a separate camp, under U.S. observation and in range of U.S. guns, and with no fraternization with U.S. troops allowed.

Charles Hilbert

East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Coarser culture does damage kids

I would like to respond to Richard Walter's question, "Is our culture really coarsening?" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 19), but I am afraid he is so caught up in his freedom of expression that he will miss my point.

He seems to believe that many of the freedoms gained since the 1950s have nothing to do with the continued degradation of what we read, see and hear in the media and that the larger society has no responsibility for the example it sets for its youth.

Mr. Walter manages to totally ignore some of the other changes in our society which have occurred during the same period when he and other writers have gained more freedom of expression -- for example, mass killings by school kids more familiar with guns than bats and balls, children born out of wedlock to teen-agers, widespread drug use, etc.

Many people believe these problems are the results of, or at the very least aggravated by, what is constantly shown as entertainment on TV.

I can understand Mr. Walter's self-serving viewpoint.

What I do not understand is why a responsible editorial board would choose to publish such immature prattle.

Bob Schmidt

Baltimore

Thanks and praise for `If I die' series

Every parent's worst nightmare is the thought of burying his or her child.

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