Letters

StreetSmarts: Keep Them Invisible
I enjoyed Kathy Glasgow's article about StreetSmarts magazine ("Brother, Can You Spare a Byline?" January 7). I read the first issue and found it interesting and well written. How curious, then, was the reported reaction of Lynn Summers, executive director of the Community Partnership for Homeless.

Apparently entrepreneurship, which is the fashionable prescription for every imaginable social ill, is fine for everyone else but beneath the dignity of our cherished homeless. In fact, I think the real objection to StreetSmarts is that both its editorial content and the process of selling it make the homeless more visible. As they look you in the eye and offer you the magazine, you might even notice that they are human beings! This, of course, is anathema to certain interests whose central goal in dealing with the homeless has been, until now, to render them invisible. Until now those interests have had a disproportionate influence.

Were it not for the First Amendment, I think StreetSmarts would already have been suppressed. As it is, however, our insurance agency is thinking about buying an ad. I hope other businesses will join us, and that someday the people who serve the homeless on behalf of our community will come to appreciate the value of the publication.

Santiago Leon
Miami

StreetSmarts: Keep Them Poor
Thank you for Kathy Glasgow's great article on the obstacles to helping the homeless. It was well written and very articulate. Publishers Frank Kaiser and Carolyn Blair are heroes in their own right. The county's Homeless Trust, on the other hand, is a freaking menace.

I would like to believe that the title "executive director" does not always mean "blood-sucking obstructionist" when it comes to charitable organizations, but it certainly looks as though Lynn Summers wants homeless people to be as irretrievably poor as possible for as long as possible. The only reason I can see why someone would object to giving human beings a hand up and out of a humiliating situation is that this someone gets either gratification from others' suffering or some kind of profit. In either case it's time for some new voices and new solutions.

If all Kaiser and Blair do for the homeless is give them a possibility of recovery, then why not extend that hope to those who need it most? Bravo, New Times! Thanks for giving them a voice.

Sylvia Maltzman
Miami Beach

StreetSmarts: Keep Them Homeless
I thoroughly enjoyed the first edition of StreetSmarts when I was visiting Miami and was happy to pay the small price to help the homeless. What happened to free enterprise? This gives the street person an incredible opportunity to begin a job to help get off the streets. It seems to me Miami-Dade County wants the homeless to stay right where they are: living on the streets.

There will always be poor people, but if we can help a few of them to pursue a better life for just a few cents, I am all for it. Frank Kaiser and Carolyn Blair are trying to give these people an opportunity to survive.

Judy K. Vosburg
Boise, Idaho

StreetSmarts: Why Not Try Something New?
I am writing in support of the StreetSmarts initiative of Frank Kaiser and Carolyn Blair and against the quick criticism of it by Lynn Summers, executive director of the Community Partnership for Homeless.

I am surprised that a public official who is in such a prominent position in the fight against homelessness -- the same one who is managing the two largest emergency shelters in Miami-Dade County -- would dismiss a nationwide experience of empowerment as being not "good for people" and not being any "different from panhandling."

In case Ms. Summers is unaware, the concept being implemented by Mr. Kaiser and Ms. Blair already has been successfully undertaken in other American cities, as well as in Canada and Europe. Furthermore if we really want the problem solved, we should welcome different approaches rather than boycotting them. With new welfare-to-work policies demanding innovative responses, Lynn Summers's attitude shows little spirit for creative ventures to tackle social issues.

Considering the trend of decreasing funds for social needs, I wonder what alternatives we will be using in the years to come if we do not experiment now with new ones, or if we characterize as exploitation the few new initiatives in Miami-Dade on behalf of our homeless. Lynn, please reconsider.

Adriano Pianesi
North Miami

StreetSmarts: Better a Hand Up Than a Handout
I support the idea of a magazine like StreetSmarts. I think it's a good step in helping the homeless who want to start (or return to) doing something productive instead of simply begging for money. It can help develop self-esteem, a proper work ethic, and ultimately lead to a real job.

As a community we need to pull together to encourage programs that teach the homeless to help themselves. It's a far better alternative than simply supporting a welfare mentality, which in essence teaches nothing more then expecting a handout instead of a helpful hand up.

Christopher Tippins
Miami

StreetSmarts: Freedom Is Not a Disability
Kathy Glasgow's article about the struggling new publication StreetSmarts was very informative regarding the success of street papers in boosting some homeless people's self-esteem by allowing them to earn money. It also revealed a lack of understanding within established homeless organizations. I was particularly put off by the narrow views expressed by Lynn Summers.

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