Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

December 15, 2007

City's homelessness is a housing problem

We appreciate The Sun's compelling coverage of homelessness ("City's homeless get frozen out," Dec. 6) and its statement urging a stronger community-wide response ("Street side," editorial, Dec. 7).

Both articles reflect an appropriate consensus that no one should freeze to death on our streets this winter.

The resulting dialogue also has helped clarify that we fundamentally face neither a "homeless" problem nor a "shelter" problem but a housing problem ("City is taking steps to help homeless" and "Housing department hasn't met the need," letters, Dec. 11).

Unfortunately, the continued erosion of affordable housing in this city keeps us stuck in a negative equation.

For example, the CitiStat program reports that between June 2006 and May 2007 alone, the city lost 730 units of publicly subsidized housing.

Even the noble efforts of Baltimore Homeless Services to accommodate 300 people in an emergency winter shelter and to place an additional 200 homeless individuals in permanent housing this year simply can't keep pace with this loss.

With a quarter of the city's population living in poverty and at least 40,000 renters at risk of homelessness because they pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent, Baltimore must first solve its housing problem if we truly wish to end homelessness.

Jeff Singer Kevin Lindamood Baltimore

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

Thinning deer herds helps other animals

Goucher College should be commended for trying to control deer on its campus ("Goucher aims to thin deer with bowmen," Dec. 7). It is too bad that the state of Maryland has failed to do so as well.

The overpopulation of deer in Maryland is badly hurting many species - most obviously birds such as towhees, brown thrashers, quail, pheasants, vireos, wood thrush, scarlet tanagers, countless warblers and most other birds that depend on ground cover six feet and lower.

Many of our woods are cleared of underbrush, and with the underbrush goes not only the ability of the forest to regenerate trees but also many of the birds.

The Maryland Department of the Environment needs to stop regarding deer as a source of income from hunting licenses and regard them as a crop to be harvested until their numbers are under control - so that other wildlife can survive.

Douglas Carroll

Lutherville

A small investment could save the deer

As an alumnus of Goucher College, I deplore the plan of the administration to slaughter some of the deer that inhabit its campus ("Goucher aims to thin deer with bowmen," Dec. 7).

The college has adopted an inhumane solution to the overpopulation of deer and rejected solutions that do not involve killing. Moreover, the current slaughter is only a temporary solution, and the college plans to kill dozens more next year.

The method of execution - shooting the deer with arrows - is particularly barbaric, and shows a total disregard of the pain inflicted on its victims.

More humane options include administering tranquilizers in food and water and euthanizing the deer.

The college administration has argued that other options, such as relocating the deer and administering contraceptives, are too costly.

This is ironic given that the college is spending tens of millions on construction, pays its president more than $300,000 per year and has been building an endowment for more than a century.

Yet even in the presence of these large sums of money, Goucher has not seen fit to invest the relatively small sum needed to save these animals.

Michael Berger

Timonium

Animal antibiotics fully tested by FDA

The editorial "Harvesting disease" (Dec. 3) opens with an illogical comparison between bioterrorism and the use of legitimate animal health products approved after rigorous review by the Food and Drug Administration. It goes on to make significant errors:

The strain of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) found in Canadian pigs is not the same strain circulating in U.S. communities, as the editorial indicates. The study the editorial refers to makes this clear - and this difference is crucial to microbiologists.

While the editorial acknowledges the pork industry has funded a testing program, The Sun states that, "No one is testing [U.S. pigs] for it."

But U.S. pork producers have funded independent experts to test for the possible presence of MRSA in U.S. pigs. In addition, public health authorities are adding testing for MRSA in animals and meat to existing surveillance programs.

The Johns Hopkins study that asserts that the use of antibiotics is not cost-effective has been debunked in published articles. The authors of that study made documented mathematical errors leading to an erroneous conclusion.

All antibiotics used to keep food animals healthy have undergone a rigorous approval process at FDA - one that, in some ways, is tougher for antibiotics used in animals than for antibiotics used in humans.

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