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He lost his home in the Camp fire — and still worries about people less fortunate than he is

He lost his home in the Camp fire — and still worries about people less fortunate than he is
A homeless person rests near the Midnight Mission on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: I was so moved by what Jaime O’Neill wrote about being homeless after losing his house in the Camp fire, and his insight into what this meant to him and to the larger issue of homelessness.

How he wrote of his own lack of a home was indeed so poignant and moving. It is not often that one who has lost everything has this empathy for those even more unfortunate than he. His compassion for those less fortunate is a lesson we should all embrace.

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I thank O’Neill for his caring and kindness. May there be more of us like him, who can see beyond our own good fortune to think of those who suffer more. How true that no one chooses to sleep under an overpass.

As O’Neill wrote, the loss of one’s entire home is not just loss of “things” — truly all that is lost is our identity, a sense of ourselves, accumulated over a lifetime, that is irreplaceable.

Alice Lynn, Pacific Palisades

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To the editor: I have compassion for homeless people and agree with the writer that some people run into bad fortune and become homeless through no fault of their own. But I disagree with O’Neill’s statement that no one chooses homelessness.

A former friend of mine, for example, had a somewhat normal life. He had a job, a home with a mortgage, cars, a credit card, a wife and kids, and now he chooses to sleep on the beach while getting food and clothing from the local church. He refuses to seek help.

I have learned that he is probably not alone. While his former friends and I cannot understand this new lifestyle, we all realize it is his choice.

Matthew D. Kerster, Gardena

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To the editor: I believe it is in telling of stories like O’Neill’s that we continue the journey of creating greater understanding. “Not in my backyard” becomes “yes in my backyard” through this kind of teaching and learning.

My best wishes to O’Neill and his family this holiday season — may there be sweet times amid the loss.

Mary Kirchen, Los Angeles

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