Housing, Housing, Housing
To the editor:
The 1992 New York City Com-mission on the Homeless, whose work the article cites with approval, concluded that transitional housing (like the Doe Fund's shelter) only works if there is a place into which people can make a transition. Continued attempts to "prove" that lack of housing is not a cause of homelessness fly in the face of reality. Clearly, lack of affordable housing and lack of income to obtain and retain permanent housing result in homeless men, women, and children in this city.
Finally, Doe Fund shelter residents who have complained about the program have no objection whatsoever to working; their complaint is simply that they should not be required to pay $65 per week from their wages for a shelter cot for which the city should provide the Doe Fund with full funding. Instead, Doe residents argue that this $65 per week should be put in a savings account to enable them to get out of the shelter and into permanent housing more quickly. This is not a matter of ideology but simply a matter of common sense practicality.
Sol Stern responds:
Tenor of the Times
To the editor:
For instance, on August 19, 1997, the Times featured the marriage of two 50-year-olds, Elaine Winter and Nick O'Han. The bride, a "lower-school principal of the Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village," and the groom, "a former headmaster of the Rockland Country Day School in Congers, N.Y.," were not embarrassed to tell the reporter, nor she to report to her readers, that the couple traveled together to Florida "last spring," and upon their return to the city, immediately moved in together, carrying chairs and lamps through the Village from her house to his.
That two middle-aged pillars of the educational establishment have no hesitation in presenting themselves as giddy teenage lovers is amusing, if ludicrous. It also tells us something about the tenor of the times that the paper chooses to highlight this aspect of their courtship.
Mental Illness Follies
To the editor:
Looking back, she was happiest at the Mental Health/ Mental Retardation Center on Broad Street in North Philadelphia, where residents had freedom to come and go and only one rule: an unoccupied bed at night meant expulsion. A competent, caring, underpaid staff supervised her medication and provided meals, but also gave her the freedom to go across the street for french fries at Kentucky Fried Chicken or to take the subway downtown. Unfortunately, after 14 months of steady improvement she was deemed "stabilized," so caseworkers moved her to a personal care facility in Germantown, where she ran away several times. She eventually ended up homeless. This is her "choice," but it is a choice made by a diseased organ: her brain.
But my brain suffers, too. Whenever the media report the murder or drowning of a middle-aged homeless Caucasian woman with hazel eyes, I question whether to call the coroner. Although at first I didn't intend to send you a case history of my sister, from experience perhaps I can speak for millions of family members who suffer from the stigma and the consequences of the exploits of a mentally ill loved one. At least ten family members are agonizing over the deeds of each mentally ill patient. Dr. Torrey cites 830,000 homeless mentally ill. Multiply that by ten, and that equals more than 8 million people in the United States who are begging for a sane solution to the problem of our abandoned mentally ill.
Our country rightly prizes freedom and rights and liberty, but we do properly limit personal freedom sometimes. Small children and adolescents, the extremely ill and elderly, do not have unabridged freedom. Just try getting a driver's license when you're 90.
Which comes first: the person or "rights"? Let the medical specialist treat the patient so that she can become truly free to participate in life.
If the civil libertarian champions of deinstitutionalization win, the incompetent patient loses, because the diseased brain cannot lead the sick person through the complexities of daily life any more than a blind person can see. I am writing this because it's time to come out of the closet, to get the mentally ill homeless off the streets, so that pharmacology may help restore them to our families.
Mary Louise Till
Dr. Torrey responds:
To the editor:
As a women's bar association, we strongly object to the sexist tone of Mr. Hellman's references to Justice Freedman's spouse and to the judge's treatment of the plaintiff's counsel.
As Mr. Hellman is very much aware, Justice Freedman's rulings have been affirmed by the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals. Also, with the consent of both parties, she has used Special Masters in order to resolve many of the issues in McCain. As Mr. Hellman also is very much aware, when faced with any further adverse decisions in this case or in any other case before Justice Freedman, the City of New York has both legal and legislative remedies that may be pursued.
Finally, as Mr. Hellman also should be aware, ethical rules prevent judges from responding to challenges to their opinions. Therefore, the closing line of Mr. Hellman's article"Helen Freedman, please explain"was totally inappropriate.
We hope that you will support the independence of the judiciary by refraining from such tactics in the future and, instead, discuss issues fairly in a way that is enlightening rather than misleading and inflammatory.
Gayle L. Eagan
To the editor:
Finally, the illustrations accom-panying the article, in our view, constitute improper personal vilification of a judge. As bar associations and leaders of the legal community, we deplore journalistic attacks that threaten the independence of judges. All judges should be free to make discretionary decisions to apply the law as they see it, without fear of intemperate personal attack or vilification. Hellman's article, in our view, goes beyond legitimate criticism of the substance of Justice Freedman's decisions in the McCain case.
And the following organizations approved this letter:
*Where an individual is listed, the organization has not agreed to join the committee.
Peter Hellman responds:
Both Ms. Eagan and Mr. Eppler object to my revealing that Judge Freedman's spouse is a leading light among welfare-rights professionals. The reader has every right to know this fact. I did not accuse the judge of impropriety. But as these writers know well, judges often disqualify themselves from presiding over cases in which even the appearance of a conflict of interest exists owing to the activities of a family member.
As for Mr. Eppler's objection to the witty illustrations accompanying the article: he must wish he could ban every portrait of judges and lawyers done by the immortal Daumier.
Drug Wars, Part II
To the editor:
In the early 1980s, prior to the appearance of crack cocaine in New York, careful foster-care management by the city lowered the number of children in the foster-care system to about 15,000. But as the crack epidemic ravaged New York, the number of children in foster care spiraled upward until nearly 50,000 children were in the care of New York City's Human Resources Administration.
Those who offer their theories of relief from the economic and social costs of drug abuse seem to forget the inevitable increase of children put "at risk." The more we increase the population of those "at risk," the more children we will inevitably move into an already-overburdened foster-care system.
But the destruction of families caused by the pushers of drug legalization will not end there. Virtually all plans for the legalization of narcotics provide for the government distribution of the drugs. But what should the government-licensed clinic or narcotics distributor do when an obviously pregnant female requests her crack? Is it discrimination for the government to refuse to provide a pregnant woman drugs when everyone else is entitled to the same fix?
And what about the care of the children born to these state-sponsored crack-addicted mothers? Do the costs of care, including special education and a lifetime of health care problems, have to be borne by the taxpayers? Of course, these costs will pale next to the costs of the personal injury suits likely to be filed by the plaintiffs' bar. Innocent children who suffer brain damage, learning disabilities, and personality disorders are ripe clients for lawyers seeking a deep-pocket government defendant in an action for negligently providing narcotics to a pregnant woman. Legalization of drugs will divert the money now being spent on enforcementplus moreinto the hands of the private bar. No wonder the bar's leaders have been among legalization's greatest supporters.