Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 13, 2006

Help the homeless before it's too late

Judging from The Sun's article "A voice silenced" (May 9), the late Michael Sibert was many things: e.g., "Screaming Mike," "street person," "down-on-his-luck soul," "poetic" rambler, neighborhood enigma and Fells Point "rock star."

But these romantic archetypes may blot out a more important aspect of his identity.

Mr. Sibert's friend Wes Robison perhaps described him best as a "troubled, sick man living alone on the street."

And indeed, Mr. Sibert was a person with a very serious illness - and perhaps a co-occurring set of maladies. For at least eight years, many individual Baltimoreans helped him. But the community at large failed to address the problems that affected him in a meaningful way.

In this respect, Mr. Sibert was similar to many of the 3,000 Baltimoreans who find themselves homeless on any given night - and to the 83 people who died on city streets last year ("Ceremony pays homage to homeless who perished," Dec. 22).

Yet despite the best efforts of kind and caring neighbors who embraced him as a member of their community, the critical resources required to meet Mr. Sibert's needs - and those of other homeless people - are lacking.

Let's not wait until the end of this year to commemorate Mr. Sibert among a list of another 83 or more dead homeless people.

We can best demonstrate our appreciation for Mr. Sibert and for all of those who assisted him by creating effective solutions, including accessible shelters, a coordinated and responsive citywide outreach program to help the homeless and sufficient permanent, supportive housing.

Let's act now before it's again too late.

Jeff Singer

Kevin Lindamood

Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the CEO and a vice president of Health Care for the Homeless Inc.

Expansive expertise for state's top lawyer

The retirement of Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. marks the end of an era for the Maryland attorney general's office ("Amid shower of affection, Curran says his goodbyes," May 9).

As a former assistant attorney general, I always took great pride in representing Mr. Curran and the state. But I have concerns about his potential successor in this office.

Two of the announced candidates are criminal prosecutors who, while talented in their field, appear to have little other legal experience.

Voters should be aware that the attorney general's office has only a very small role in prosecuting criminal cases.

Indeed, the attorney general can only prosecute criminal cases with specific authorization from the governor. Crimefighting is largely the job of local state's attorneys and police.

A short list of the wide variety of tasks that are part of the real work of the office would include advising state agencies in a wide variety of legal areas, such as state financing, business transactions, administrative processes, human resources and election law; providing consumer protection; and handling complex, large-scale civil litigation.

Citizens should look for a candidate who has broad experience in the practice of law, or demand that any candidate who cannot bring such experience to the office make a clear commitment to staff the office with attorneys who can bring such expertise.

Karen J. Kruger

Baltimore

Conflict resolution can curb violence

I read with interest the excellent article "Program helps city kids learn to be good sports" (May 3) by Lynn Anderson.

I want to applaud the Sports4Kids program, which helps Baltimore students learn to use conflict-resolution techniques, and the Open Society Institute for its generous support of school conflict-resolution programs.

Indeed, there are a growing number of conflict-resolution programs operating in schools throughout the state.

These include peer mediation programs; conflict-resolution skills training programs for school administrators, faculty, students and parents; special conflict-resolution curricula; partnerships with community mediation centers; community conferencing as an alternative to suspension and expulsion; and an assortment of other programs that help reduce disruptive behavior, bullying and violence in schools.

I hope that these programs will increase students' abilities to prevent and resolve the conflicts they will encounter throughout their lives.

Roger C. Wolf

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland School of Law.

A cultural conflict in South Baltimore

I was very impressed with The Sun's article "Raising the bar" (May 2).

Reporter John Woestendiek truly researched the working-class culture that was once the heart and soul of the Locust Point neighborhood.

I must, however, disagree with the points raised in the letter "Newcomers boost South Baltimore" (May 8).

I am a life-long resident of South Baltimore, and I have watched the gentrification chase out the working class. As a life-long resident, I do resent the newcomers.

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