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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Forcing homeless people into treatment at least gives them a chance

Homeless people’s tents in downtown Los Angeles
Tents line a sidewalk in a downtown Los Angeles homeless encampment.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

To the editor: I agree with former Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s approach on homelessness 100%. (“Forcing homeless people into mental health treatment isn’t the way to solve homelessness,” editorial, Jan. 28)

I am one of those mental health professionals involved in the treatment of homelessness. I didn’t just study it, I lived it.

I’ve had thousands of homeless patients over a 30-year career as a psychiatric social worker in a busy emergency room. I came to realize that before anything would help them and their situation, I would have to get their attention.

If I had to compete with meth, heroin or other such substances, I couldn’t possibly succeed. If I had a few days in which the patients could gain some mental clarity, at least I had a chance.

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Bob Lanz, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Living on the streets causes mental illness. The cry for “housing first” recognizes this truth.

Many fear people who are destitute. Many disdain people who are poor, saying they’re lazy. Many glorify wealth and power that can be bought.

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The truth is that many of us are just a divorce or a job loss away from being on the streets.

Doris Isolini Nelson, Los Angeles

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To the editor: According to some, the rights of homeless people are sacrosanct. Meanwhile, the right of the rest of us to safely access taxpayer-funded public property including streets and sidewalks is being completely trampled upon.

I will gladly vote in favor of Gatto’s ballot measure on compelling mentally ill or addicted homeless people into treatment for two reasons.

First, he is actually doing something with a sense of urgency; and second, it seems only a matter of common sense that it would be better for homeless people to see a therapist after sleeping indoors, regardless of the institutional setting, than it would be for them to commute from their tents on public sidewalks.

If people object to police enforcing laws of common decency that apply to all of us, regardless of our mental capacity, they should work to change the laws.

Jean Anker, Woodland Hills


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