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The 'saints' of skid row

The 'saints' of skid row
Jeff Dietrich, pictured above, and Catherine Morris of the Catholic Worker have for decades helped skid row's homeless despite little support from local business and political leaders and even their church hierarchy. (Los Angeles Times)

Most of the several hundred letters I read each week can best be described as adversarial: They take issue with healthcare reform, the handling of the crisis in Ukraine, politics in Washington and any number of topics where there is little middle ground.

Occasionally, an uplifting story will provide some respite from the ceaseless debates. This week, reporter Kurt Streeter's Column One on Jeff Dietrich and Catherine Morris of the Catholic Worker movement — a husband-wife team whose lifelong work has been to "enable" skid row's homeless — did just that. About a dozen readers wrote expressing their admiration of the couple for their tireless efforts.

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Here are some of their letters.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor

Long Beach resident Claire Marmion praises Dietrich and Morris for living what many people preach:

Thanks to Streeter for his recognition of the work that Dietrich and Morris do for those on skid row.

We often read that the true measure of a society is how the weakest and "least" members are treated, yet most of us don't get out there and feed them. The other adage about "walking a mile in their shoes" reminds us that "there but for the grace of God" could go any of us.

We can be grateful that these two people and their helpers are keeping this population from starving.

Lapsed Catholic Tim Sunderland of Rancho Cucamonga says his former church needs more saints:

I was raised Catholic, receiving my education in Catholic schools for 10 years, but left the church at age 17.

Several months ago, however, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dietrich and meeting him afterward. Few things have moved me as much. The commitment these two and the entire Catholic Worker movement have to the poor and homeless is unquestioning and passionate. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has another reason to hang its head in shame for its lack of support for these people.

Among us, Dietrich and Morris truly stand out as saints.

Jerry Rubin of Santa Monica recalls Dietrich's earlier activism:

It was inspirational reading the article on "homeless enablers" Dietrich and Morris. Their commitment, dedication and service over the decades is admirable.

I remember in the early 1980s when Dietrich served as president of the L.A. anti-nuke group Alliance for Survival. He was always making important connections. I recall a rally banner slogan he suggested that read, "Feed the homeless, not the Pentagon." Those political understandings and connections are as relevant today as then.

Morris and Dietrich, in a very conscientious manner, are always thinking globally and acting locally.

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Babette Wilk of Valley Village takes a swipe at the Catholic Worker's critics:

So by feeding the homeless, Dietrich and Morris are accused of enabling them. Enabling them to what: not seek shelter and services that don't exist?

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