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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 20, 2013 at 7:35 AM

Solving homelessness in Seattle

Be tolerant of homeless people and intolerant of homelessness

Marc Berrier, right, looks out for homeless people to pass out coffee and donuts during the Seattle Union Gospel's Morning Watch program, Nov. 18, in Seattle. (Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Marc Berrier, right, looks out for homeless people to pass out coffee and donuts during the Seattle Union Gospel’s Morning Watch program, Nov. 18, in Seattle. (Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Danny Westneat has it right in the title of his column, “Homeless camps no place for kids” [Opinion, Dec. 15].

In a number of places in our country the long misery of homelessness is inflicted on victims who have no choice. Whether bad parental decisions or bad public policy, children should be spared the human tragedy and squalid conditions imposed by others.

Referrals by any source — a government agency or a homeless shelter — to a campsite is a failure of basic human compassion. Better choices are possible, especially in a city steeped in hospitality and welcome.

The good news is that there are communities making the right choice. As Westneat suggests, “Maybe we could aim instead that no child will be homeless … living in an unheated wooden shack in a camp …”

He and Seattle need look no further than San Bernardino, Calif., where the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino County has responded to children living on the streets with the innovative No Child Left Unsheltered initiative.

The initiative has captured the imagination and compassion of the whole community.

If, as Westneat concludes, “we’ve accepted that kids living in shacks is just the way it’s going to be,” we need to reawaken our intolerance of such conditions. We need to be tolerant of homeless people, but intolerant of homelessness. With the resources in Seattle and surroundings, bemoaning the situation is a beginning; solving the disgrace is the mission.

— Philip Mangano, president of The American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness, Boston

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