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In Your Opinion:

In his response to my public camping concept, David Sirkin’s “virtual shelters” can only be viewed as just a local approach. Is he advocating that all of Los Angeles County’s 88,000 homeless people without shelter come down here and sleep on our beach? Any concept for public camping facilities must be countywide for obvious reasons. His concept of “virtual shelters” where you “draw” a line in the sand offers no protection for people’s belongings, unless he also advocates “virtual storage” or pretend storage. Pretend shelter is not safe for people or their property, how can that be a realistic answer? Even the vilified job done to protect poor people in New Orleans after Katrina is better than what currently exists for the homeless of LA County. Mr. Sirkin’s proposal is in reality no actual proposal at all, other than a stick to prod poor people with.

Picture yourself on the beach at night, it’s 45 degrees and you are exhausted because you have been out on the street for another long, painful day. You slide your body into a pretend bed side by side with a hundred other people, many of whom are sick and mentally ill or both. You can’t be sure your stuff won’t be stolen by the next morning. Both homeless haters and homeless sympathizers agree that many homeless people are completely disabled, both mentally and physically, and are helpless. I ask you, besides prisoners is there any other group of people anywhere we treat with this kind of cruelty and neglect?

Is having a private sleeping module too much comfort for a homeless person? Is providing a private storage box at night too cush, too enabling? Having your possessions there when you wake up is somehow making life too easy for the street poor?

There are small 500-square-foot spaces on vacant County Public Works land at night; there is unused industrial parking lot space; there are buildings that are vacant for long periods. Parks could set aside 500-square-feet for nighttime camping. There are spaces all over the county if you would just look. If the public had the will to provide nighttime camping facilities for the stranded, it would be done!

Trying to punish people off the street by criminalizing or neglect are America’s human rights injustices! Rolling all homeless people up into one big ugly stereotype and punishing them for their own good is torture. Our society is torturing the street poor and advocating further torture as a solution to their problem.

Five years ago Bring Home LA declared an End To Homelessness in 10 Years! It was a bold sound bite. After five years there are more homeless people on the street than ever! The reason permanent housing doesn’t work and actually has the opposite effect of creating more homeless people is the huge cost which for LA totals more than $40 billion. Permanent housing induces able people not to work whether they are homeless or not. Mr. Sirkin is afraid that decent public camping facilities would be “too appealing” and be a disincentive to leaving the streets. Again I say there is a societal bi-polar psychosis working here. Neither permanent housing nor pretend shelter is realistic. One, a manic do-all approach and the other a depressed do-nothing approach. Neither reduces homelessness.

Homeless people reflect the disappearance of the extended family and wages that provided working class people with a good home. People used to be able to take care of their own. People used to make enough money to pay rent, raise children and look after a disabled relative.

Homelessness has grown because the working middle class has become an endangered species and has been disappearing for the last 35 years. Homeless people are simply prisoners of war in a war on the working class by the shareholder class. Sicking the dogs on the poor with no shelter or “virtual shelter” is just another way to ignore their suffering.

Randy Walburger

Santa Monica

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In 2006, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes estimated that the Iraq War would cost this country between $1 and $2 trillion. They have revised their estimate: it is $2.5 trillion.

With 300 million people in the U.S., the per-person cost will be $8333. California’s share will be $299.9 billion; Los Angeles County: $83.3 billion; City of Los Angeles: $33.3 billion; Santa Monica: $725 million.

The funds that could help make a truly “kinder, gentler” society go to feed our rulers’ desires for endless wars. Next time you complain about the lack of money for fire and police protection, schools, health and medical facilities, environmental protection and repairs to the aging and crumbling infrastructure, think about these figures.

We can’t have empire abroad without destroying democracy and human needs at home.


John Marciano

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Why, when a large majority of Americans say they are not satisfied with the way the war is going, do Republicans vote in block against eventually bringing troops home from Iraq? To date, 3,192 soldiers have been reported killed and 24,042 soldiers have been reported wounded in action.

Lest we forget, the war that has now lasted longer than our involvement in World War II, is not an American war, but a Republican war. Are Republicans happy with the bankrupt cause they have bought into?

Bush and Cheney continue to deflect attention away from their failed escapade in the desert by blaming the anti-war movement for lowering troop morale. Maybe, it’s more a case of soldiers holding a buddy in their arms who has just been shot by sniper.

Ron Lowe

Santa Monica

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I took a check for $4600 to my bank (First Federal) and deposited $1650 in one checking account I have and the balance in my main checking. I had $700 in my main checking already. Yesterday I got a notice that I’d been charged $23 for each time I used my debit card that week (4x, amounting to $125) even though I knew I had that $700 in there, and knowing that the big check would not have cleared yet. Here’s what the bank tells me: They’ve implemented a new system (that the other bigger banks have evidently been doing for some time) whereby the cash I took out (the $1650 that went into my secondary checking) was held against the cash in my regular checking ($700) leaving me with, according to their new system, a negative balance of $950, so that until that big check cleared all uses of my debit card would be charged an extra fee of $23. You can imagine my shock. This is a system that assaults the middle, lower middle and lower class people, the folks who live paycheck to paycheck. It is an insidious plan to squeeze, illegitimately, another fee out of the people who can least afford it. The fellow who assisted me on the phone was even embarrassed by it, but of course he’s just a cog in the wheel. There’s no one to complain to other than newspapers and congressional representatives. And, can one reasonably expect our representatives to listen to us when we can’t take them to the Bahamas to talk about it? Hey, Joe Biden, did you do this?

I hope others speak out. Shame on the banks and shame on the officials who granted them the right to skim off the hard-won earnings of those people living check to check.

Woodie Guthrie, alluding to banks, once wrote, “Some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen,” and it still is true, only now it’s with a computer.

David Charles

Los Angeles

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