[Hpn] Spare change, please:Opinion;by David Wallis-[NY writer];SF Chronicle;10/30/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 11:08:19 -0500

-------Forwarded opinion-------

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
San Francisco Chronicle <http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/>
Opinion section
Page A - 17
Spare change, please

[by] David Wallis

ACCORDING TO a study by the Urban Institute released last February, at some 
point during the year at least 2.3 million Americans will be homeless. This 
shocking number will doubtless rise along with unemployment -- yet another 
toxic by-product of the attacks of September 11.

The first order of business for any individual, or society, is self- 
preservation. But what distinguishes civilization from barbarism is concern 
for others. Since September 11, despite the thugs who terrorize neighbors 
who look as if they might be Muslims, Americans have largely rededicated 
themselves to racial tolerance: Osama bin Laden's operatives drew no 
distinctions between Americans along color lines, and this has led to a new 
kind of all-inclusive patriotism. At the same time, many Americans have 
reconsidered their opinion of the police: Who will refer to them as "pigs" 

We have also showered the victims of September 11 and their families with 
charitable donations now approaching $1 billion. We have even engaged in air 
drops of food over Afghanistan in an attempt to distinguish between the 
innocent inhabitants of that battered land and the mass murderers and their 
Taliban henchmen. Now, to demonstrate our capacity for caring in the midst 
of horror, we might consider directing some of that compassionate cargo to 
places such as Mount Zion Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn. Since September 
11, Rev. Henry Price reports a 40 percent rise in "customers" at what was 
already a busy food bank.

Those who would turn a blind eye to suffering on the sidewalks because so 
many of our resources are earmarked to fighting terrorism should ask 
themselves: How can we hope to export American values -- especially justice 
-- if we tolerate injustice on our streets?

Since September 11, thousands of Americans experienced, if only temporarily,

the bitter taste of homelessness. Displaced from their homes, they doubled 
up with relatives or took refuge in emergency shelters. While most of those 
in New York City displaced by the attacks will eventually return home, they 
will surely bring with them a new-found sympathy for neighbors who suffer 
hardship on a regular basis.

An hour after the World Trade Center towers collapsed, a homeless man 
outside of St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village watched an army of 
blood donors invade his turf. He wore a Black Beatles T-shirt, olive green 
military shorts, and a scruffy black beard. He rested one hand on a cart 
packed with his possessions and in the other hand held a beer wrapped in the 
Village Voice.

"What do you make of all this?" I asked him.

"Today is the only day when I can drink a beer without getting a ticket," he 
shot back. "Normally, they look at me like I'm a terrorist."

America must invest in public housing, particularly housing with on-site 
social workers and substance-abuse counselors to help the mentally ill and 
drug-dependent homeless people. More street people with severe mental 
illness should be committed to hospitals. If we must lose some of our civil 
liberties in the name of national security, civilized society should no 
longer permit the mentally ill to suffer on the streets.

Whether intended or not, President Bush made a powerful argument for a war 
on homelessness during a White House news conference Oct. 11: "The evil ones 
have sparked an interesting change in America, I think -- a compassion in 
our country that is overflowing. I know their intended act was to destroy us 
and make us cowards and make us not want to respond. But quite the opposite 
has happened -- our nation is united, we are strong, we're compassionate; 
neighbors care about neighbors."

David Wallis is a writer in New York.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**


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

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

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp