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To see the sickness of a society indifferent to poverty and mental illness, go to skid row

To see the sickness of a society indifferent to poverty and mental illness, go to skid row
A person sleeps on the corner of First and Spring streets across from City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 29. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Homeless individuals are constantly presented as being a problem while our lack of humanity as a society, which puts people struggling with mental illness out on the street to fend for themselves, is seldom discussed. (“L.A.’s homelessness surged 75% in six years. Here’s why the crisis has been decades in the making,” Feb. 1)

Starting in the 1960s, mental institutions in California were scaled back or closed, and no provision was made for their former patients, who were simply discarded by our government. Decades later, legislation has been approved to spend $2 billion to construct affordable housing.

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This is a first step, but another part of the problem is the inability of people with mental illness to get treatment in California. I tried for three years to get treatment for a family member with schizophrenia, but I could not arrange even a single appointment with a medical professional.

Homelessness is a symptom of a society sickened by a lack of values.

Bruce Stenman, Prunedale, Calif.

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To the editor: Many of us have fought long and hard for more intelligent responses to people experiencing homelessness.

I hope neither Mayor Eric Garcetti nor his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa go farther in politics.


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It is not rocket science: The solutions have been out there very clearly for decades, yet “special interests” focused on “special populations” have ignored them or institutionalized them to the point that these solutions are no longer effective.

For the vast majority of those living on our streets, in tent cities, in their cars and in shelters, what they actually need are moderate rent subsidies, lease negotiation with landlords, and short-term social services to connect them to community-based resources they might benefit from after moving into housing at rents they can afford. Why not get the more stable men, women and youth off the streets now, when they are not yet “chronically homeless?”

We created this mess, now let’s fix it. We could cut those homeless numbers in half within a year.

Tanya Tull, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the housing advocacy group Partnering for Change.

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To the editor: Want to make housing and services available to homeless people starting today? Simple: Just remind our elected officials that the world will be watching the City of Angels during the 2028 Olympic Games.

And what will the eyes of the world see besides our beaches, mountains, homes, gardens, buildings and rail infrastructure? Perhaps more than 58,000 people living in squalor on our streets.

We’ve got 10 years to clean up our “mess of indifference” and billions of dollars to do it with. Do we really want to be called “La Ciudad de Los Diablos?”

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Suzanne J. Marks, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Thanks to columnist Steve Lopez and reporter Gale Holland for their respective overviews of our shameful situation. They both know what they are talking about and are good examples of the benefits of having seasoned, smart journalists at the Los Angeles Times who have been alert for years.

In the early 1980s, I was part of the skid row community and saw the largest missions preach religion as they handed out food and made beds available. They had the toilets, but not all people could deal with their programs and rules.

By 2010, the streets smelled terrible because of all the desperate humanity crammed into the area. Thousands of people lack decent access to toilets or showers.

I hope neither Mayor Eric Garcetti nor his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa go farther in politics. They have failed to work on this most pressing problem with bravery or creativity.

Judith Markoff Hansen, Los Angeles

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