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Letters from our readers

Letters from our readers

Don't buy itThanks to Jeff Woods for his inspiring piece about the homeless (“Outlawing the Poor,” Feb. 21). Everyone has money problems this year. Welfare for military contractors is vastly increasing our national debt. More foreclosures now may mean more homeless people soon. But as Woods points out, helping the homeless actually would save money by reducing costs of health care and criminal justice.I might quibble about Woods' focusing solely on Nashville. The wealthy want the poor to go away, but where is "away"? Some other city? The problem is national; our entire society needs a change of attitude. What kind of people do we want to be?I might also quibble about Woods' phrase "class war"; it implies both sides are aware of the conflict. Indeed, some of the yuppies are not heartless, merely blind. But their blindness is from narcissistic consumerism, which is not far from heartlessness. The downtown condos are emblematic of fortress America. In your gated community, you surround yourself with enemies of your own making; your materialistic paradise becomes a spiritual prison. America, you forgot to put your soul on your shopping list.ERIC SCHECHTERleftymathprof@yahoo.com (Nashville)Conservative compassionDude. Seriously. Your article "Outlawing the Poor" (Feb. 21) harkens back to the old days before Bruce and Albie became members at the Club and everyone that wore a tie to work was a "bizpig." It's not about rich vs. poor; it's about law-abiding, hard-working, tax-paying small business and property owners vs. alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals and a few severely mentally ill. Most of us welcome the renewed enforcement activity by Metro police. There is only one reason that panhandlers ask for cash on the street, and that is of course to buy alcohol or drugs. There are various options available to them for free meals and temporary housing. Is the city's attempt to curb illegal activity downtown inconsistent with our moral obligation as a community to provide for those less fortunate? Absolutely not, but our compassion does not and should not extend to giving a free pass to vagrancy, public intoxication, vandalism and assault. As to whether Metro should commit additional resources to address this intractable issue, my suggestion would be to increase the operating budget for the police department. From personal experience dealing with a family member who is a diagnosed schizophrenic and alcoholic and who has lived on the streets off and on for over 20 years, my sense is that providing public assistance to the homeless only serves to increase the homeless population.JOHN CLAYBROOKjdclaybrook@yahoo.com (Nashville)Sobering thoughtI was a homeless person on the streets of Nashville a year ago, and like the person who made the point about the tailgaters at the Titans' games not getting arrested (“Outlawing the Poor,” Feb. 21), what about all the drunk tourists and local people I used to watch walk down to Broadway after parking their BMWs in the parking garages, only to see them, hours later, stagger and stumble their way back up the hill to their cars, then drive off more intoxicated than any homeless person I ever saw?I don't drink or do drugs, but it really pissed me off when I was confronted by a local who was obviously staggering drunk, a yuppie type, who spotted me and hollered, "Why don't you get a real job?" I answered back, matter-of-factly, "Why don't you try playing a guitar out in the cold with the car exhaust fumes blowing down your throat, play for about seven or eight hours, doing all your songs from memory, playing only for tips, and then see if it doesn't feel like a real job to you?" All he did was stumble off into the night and curse at me under his very intoxicated breath.Not all the homeless people in Nashville are drunks and drug addicts. Some of us were just people who had a string of bad luck and couldn't afford the luxury of living in a loft or apartment. We are not criminals, just homeless. Remember, Jesus was homeless. BOBBY W. ELLIOTTbwebandit592000@yahoo.com (Nashville)Your back yardCome on, guys, nothing good comes from dogging one group to help another. We need to work together on the homeless issue. Jeff Woods obviously does not get it.As one who lives in an area where homeless and transients are allowed to gather, I doubt anyone is “Outlawing the Poor” (Feb. 21). Within this group, as in any other, there are those who become your friends, those you can help and those you cannot, those who are addicted, those who are mentally ill, along with those who have committed various crimes, and a few obviously homeless wanting jobs and assistance. These souls came into life just as the rest of us, but circumstances left them unable to cope. Many turn to alcohol, drugs and crime. Laws against aggressive panhandling and open camps provide safety for everyone. How absurd to call this “Nashville's new class war”! If you do not understand those labeled the “up-and-comers” in this debacle, I suggest you go to churches closest to your home and ask them to open a soup kitchen to serve 200 to 300 several times a week. After providing this service in your neighborhood for several months, you will be enlightened. Your neighborhood will have multiple car break-ins, you will have transients on your steps, your home and business air conditioners will be stripped of copper, your streets will be littered with all the handouts of clothing and food, shopping centers and four-way stops will have aggressive panhandlers, and your benches will be filled with inebriated human beings. Public parks will be a haven for sex, drugs and camps. Yes, the services may close at 3 p.m., but the people are left with nowhere to go. Next you will have camps in your open spaces and vacant buildings. Drugs, alcohol and prostitution will prevail. Don’t forget the normal body functions necessary for all of us. This will give each area a chance to understand and experience what this means to a neighborhood. Hopefully, this new camp in your neighborhood will encourage you to look for answers.Come on, let's quit throwing stones and help those we can and make those who do not accept help obey the law. Please stop the sensationalism and judgment.CAROL W. WILLIAMSwachtel@bellsouth.net (Nashville)Poor assumptionThe most irresponsible implication of the Feb. 21 story “Outlawing the Poor” is that poor people rely on panhandling to get by. This is an insult to people who work two or more jobs to make ends meet. Real poor people could do without Mr. Woods grouping them in the same category as addicts, drifters and con artists. The truth is, homeless people willing to follow simple rules won’t be denied basic necessities in Nashville—no panhandling required. The Campus for Human Development is not the only shelter in town. When they run out of beds, the Rescue Mission is two blocks away and won’t turn down anyone on a cold night. And by the way, Mr. Woods, 211 is a free call from any pay phone. BEN BAHILbbahil@hotmail.com (Nashville)Don't stop nowDo keep exploring what happens with Nashville’s 2,200 homeless downtown (“Outlawing the Poor,” Feb. 21), and keep the issue before our eyes—and the mayor’s. The end of this article touched on a few responses and solutions—let’s hear more of that. We need a path to consistent shelter, work and rehabilitation as much as we need paths to citizenship for illegal aliens. The alternative does seem to be simply herding folks from place to place. HAMPTON HOWELLovate@bellsouth.net (Nashville)Critical delightDavid Maddox's essay on the Guayasamin exhibit is superb: informative and at the same time sharp and analytical (“The View From the Equator,” Feb. 21). It is one of the best analyses I read on the pieces in the exhibit. As one of the organizers of this event, I thank you. CARLOS JAUREGUIcarlos.jauregui@vanderbilt.edu (Nashville)

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