I was dismayed, but not surprised, to read your recent letters on the homeless ["Pessimism on homeless," Dec. 9]. All of them to some extent blamed the homeless for their plight.

The street homeless, like the man with no shoes, are most often mentally ill, and many are schizophrenic. They sleep outdoors because they believe this freedom protects them from the "evil" out to get them.

It is a heart-wrenching existence, most of all for their families who cannot figure out a way to help them back into sanity. Heart-wrenching for good people, like the wonderful policeman, who want to do something but eventually either feel used or defeated.

We no longer put these people in old-fashioned asylums. I do not know if that is good or bad. What I do know is that these people are not conniving. They are genuinely sick.

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Marion Boden, Hampton Bays

Editor's note: The writer worked for the New York City Housing Authority.