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Home / Articles / Views / Letters /  Can't 'fix' homelessness
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Thursday, January 28,2010

Can't 'fix' homelessness

We read with interest — and sadness — Pamela White’s article about homelessness (“There’s no easy fix for homelessness,” Uncensored, Jan 21).

After working a combined 10 years at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, we moved to California’s Bay Area in 2006. If there was ever a city that exemplifies the complicated nature of homelessness, San Francisco is it. The community has spent millions of dollars, opened hundreds of soup kitchens and shelters, and established numerous city ordinances. In short, it has done nearly everything humanly possible — and yet, the problem of homelessness is worse than ever.

Nearly a decade ago, when the Boulder Shelter announced plans to build its 160-bed facility, people argued over whether a larger facility would attract more homeless to the area. Some said that “if you build it, they will come.” And guess what? We built it, and they came. Is it really so hard to understand that hungry people will go to where there’s food?

Homelessness cannot be “fixed” — and certainly not by Boulder’s City Council, by a tent city or by increasing the number of beds at the shelter. No matter how many programs are established or incentives are offered, there will always be people who cannot or will not accept help, even with their lives at stake. A community can choose to make life so difficult that these individuals leave — or it can understand and accept this unfortunate reality and do what it can to support the individuals who do want to get off the streets.

Boulder is lucky to have high-quality nonprofits that provide basic needs, address complex mental and physical medical problems and connect folks to housing and job resources. The shelter’s Transition and Housing First programs, the Mental Health Center, the Addiction Recovery Center and dozens of other agencies have helped thousands of men and women get back on their feet. They accomplish this work despite constant financial struggle and a community’s belief that homelessness is a problem they can and should “fix.”

It’s time for Boulder to stop hiding behind ideals about solving homelessness, and to instead encourage businesses, churches and residents to financially support the agencies that have proven they can chip away at the problem. For the many people who have and will get back on their feet, it makes all the difference in the world.

Jennifer Gabriel and Scott Brown/Alameda, Calif.

Healthier food for kids

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama called on the U.S. Conference of Mayors to help her fight the national scourge of childhood obesity. She noted that one-third of all children are overweight or obese. She proposed healthier school lunch fares, increased physical activity and nutrition education.

Traditionally, the National School Lunch Program has served as a dumping ground for the USDA’s surplus meat and dairy commodities. Not surprisingly, the USDA’s own surveys indicate that 90 percent of American children consume excessive amounts of fat, and only 15 percent eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegeta bles.

Their early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

In the past few years, several state legislatures have asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options. According to the School Nutrition Association, 52 percent of U.S. school districts now do. Last fall, the Baltimore City Public School system became the first in the United States to offer its 80,000 students a complete weekly break from meat.

Parents and others who care about our children’s health should demand healthful plant-based school meals, snacks and vending machine items. See schoolnutrition.org, schoolmeals.nal. usda.gov, healthyschoollunches.org, and choiceusa.net.

Stanley Silver/Boulder

Tiger’s silent treatment

Tiger Woods took a different tack during his very personal problem times: Complete silence. Other sport figures, congressional office holders, show business personalities and business leaders caught with their public pants down have decided to go in front of the media right away: admit their mistakes, and then try to move on. For the most part, that plan has successfully worked for many, saving them “face” and money. So why was Tiger silent? It can only be he knows more than we do … and what he knows can’t be good.

I am philosophically glad, however, that his silence has mostly distanced him from the vicious speculators, talking heads and many of the members of the usual media circus that follow almost any self-absorbed and so-called “celebrity.” Tiger has proven that there can be a separation of personal and professional life, even for the most wellknown athlete in the world.

Undoubtedly, he has lost millions of dollars in endorsements. It seems that those dollars are less important to him than matters in his personal life.

Most celebrities and highly visual sports figures in trouble make decisions based on saving as much of “the almighty dollar” as they can. So far, Tiger Woods has demonstrated at least one unique and redeeming personality trait we must give him full credit for: money is not his god.

B.J. Mooney/Nederland

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