[Hpn] When They Won't Seek Shelter;Washington Post Editorial;11/8/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Thu, 08 Nov 2001 10:32:45 -0500

-------Forwarded editorial-------

Thursday, November 8, 2001
Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com>
[Washington, D.C.]
Opinion section
Washington Post Editorial
Page A30
When They Won't Seek Shelter

Thursday, November 8, 2001; Page A30

THE DISTRICT government is right to start work now on plans to protect the 
homeless from freezing to death this winter. Seven homeless people died of 
hypothermia in the District last year, at least five of whom were 
intoxicated by alcohol or under the influence of drugs. Though the 
hypothermia season officially started last week, the cold, wet conditions 
that can cause an exposed person's body temperature to fall below 95 degrees 
have held off. The city, however, cannot wait until a dead body is found on 
the streets before taking steps to help homeless adults who may be at risk. 
Winter is inevitable; death on the District's streets need not be.

The mayor has ordered city officials to be more assertive in removing 
intoxicated or mentally ill adults from the streets this winter, including 
those who are reluctant to seek shelter. A chief executive concerned about 
homeless people at risk of dying should do no less. Homeless men and women 
too sick or too inebriated to decide a life-or-death question should not be 
left out in the bitter cold huddling under layers of newspapers, discarded 
cardboard boxes or a throwaway blanket. They should be transported to an 
emergency shelter or a medical facility where they can pose no danger to 

Not everyone is pleased with the mayor's initiative. Brian Anders, outreach 
and advocacy coordinator for a homeless services organization in the 
Northwest Columbia Heights community, charges that new instructions are "all 
about pushing homeless people out of the downtown area so tourists and 
businesspeople don't have to see them." Absent evidence to back it up, Mr. 
Anders's accusation should be given little weight. But some community 
advocates also worry that the civil liberties and personal freedom of 
homeless people could be abused by overzealous outreach workers or police 
officers who force the homeless to stay somewhere against their will. Mayor 
Williams's strategy to protect the homeless should take those concerns into 

He should also take care that city emergency shelters do not operate as 
crowded human warehouses. A program that works is one that offers the 
homeless not only a place out of the cold but also an opportunity to come to 
grips with the root conditions that produced the homelessness in the first 


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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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