Homelessness: Attack on Reporter's Fairness Criticized

Marguerite Waller's complaint about the lack of reportorial balance in Nancy Hill-Holtzman's Metro section article ("Santa Monica Tangles With Homeless Issue," March 29) is laughable. Accusing Hill-Holtzman of an abandonment of the journalistic principle of balance, Waller engages in the most base forms of propaganda--distorting the issue, failing to uncover facts and ignoring the truth.

Waller characterizes all of the homeless as refugees from brutal economic changes worldwide. She totally ignores the countless cases of homelessness that are the product of the bad behavior and poor choices that accompany it--the use of drugs, alcohol, and the cycle of dependency created by all the wonderful welfare programs of the '60s gone awry.

The fact is that the female transient who defecated on the lawn at Roosevelt School did so--or at least exposed those "pink panties" for the children to observe--more than once. Because there may be few public lavatories in Santa Monica open 24 hours a day, does Waller imply that we should accept this behavior in front of our children as an appropriate response to the lack of facilities?

Any legitimate survey of the homeless in Santa Monica would reveal that Waller's assertion that many of them are longtime (previously housed) residents of the city is a complete fabrication. The word "many" has meaning: to wit, large numbers or a large percentage of the number. That is simply not the case. Many (with "meaning" intended) of us who were raised in Santa Monica and have had lifelong contact across generations of adults and youth (that also transcends race and economic status) can say that we have run into only a very, very few cases of homeless who are longtime Santa Monica residents. Some of us have seen none.

Waller's assertion that she, as an academic, was quoted while the comments of the homeless were ignored is amusing. As a professor, Waller is part of a self-described elite group in society that believes the "credentialed" are equipped to tell us how to live. Now she decries the fact that she is quoted while the subjects of the academic domain are ignored. Perhaps Hill-Holtzman--an experienced writer, with a keen sense of observation--simply selected those quotes that she felt most clearly described the tenor of the council session. The democratic process, of course, guarantees the right to free speech--but it guarantees neither the right to listeners or the right to publication. The lack of general interest in newspapers published by the homeless is rather revealing about how enthused the public is about listening to their complaints. But ever the champion of "democratic process," Waller--like most liberal academics--would force us to read or hear another's "free speech" whether we wished to or not--"freedom" once again sacrificed at the altar of "fairness."

KIP DELLINGER

Santa Monica

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