Regarding the June 24 editorial, "Atlantic City's homeless/Sensible plan":

People who find themselves homeless, often through no fault of their own, are our most vulnerable population.

It is true that they often end up in Atlantic City for its perks and amenities. Many have been forced or evicted from their homes, lost employment and have found no place to go. Others may have left an addicted or abusive partner. Still others may have some not-easily-diagnosed medical condition, which they try to self-medicate with over-the-counter medication or illegal substitutes.

They can often be found with plastic bags sleeping on park benches or at the bus or train station. Some subsist on handouts or whatever can be found in trash bins. Many stay out in public places for safety reasons. They are often malnourished, have not slept in a clean bed for weeks or months and have not had an opportunity to bathe for a very long time.

It has been suggested that the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Sister Jean's Kitchen turn these people away until they are registered as homeless individuals. Although this seems like a good plan to help these people get the help and services they need, it is not realistic. Many are so hungry and tired when they reach these sites that they may refuse to become registered because of pride or fear.

What is needed is an advocate who can become a voice for the homeless after they have had a chance to clean up, eat a nourishing meal and get a good night's rest. Asking a homeless person to do anything when he or she is hungry, unclean, not rested and dressed from a rag bag is cruel and uncaring. Some may be only one paycheck away from not being homeless. Some may appear mentally ill, but may just be disoriented from the stress of trying to survive all alone on the street.

If homeless people are turned away from these welcoming sites, they may be prey for criminals or die from exposure in an often hostile and unsafe environment.


Mays Landing