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Letter: Homeless shelter services reduced

In Holbrook, people stand in line for a

In Holbrook, people stand in line for a bag of groceries from the food pantry at Calvary Chapel Island of Grace, after which they can have a hot meal. Credit: Heather Walsh, 2011

In the letters section, "Pessimism about homelessness" [Dec. 9], it is argued that some homeless people "want to live in the street." The face of homelessness depicted in the letters is quite inaccurate.

More than half the homeless in Nassau County, and 75 percent of those in Suffolk County, are women and children, according to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. The distorted view depicted in the letters lumps all of those without housing into the same, and convenient, category. Why provide services to those who really don't want them? Why waste government money and resources to reach out to those who are simply ripping off the system?

Sadly, the persistent stigmatization of homeless people has led not only to prejudice and lack of empathy, but most recently, to a policy change that can only be described as devastating to those families who are already suffering so much.

As people who study social work at Molloy College, we had the privilege to meet with families who are living in an emergency shelter, Bethany House in Roosevelt. We learned that as of Nov. 1, Nassau County has altered the emergency shelter policy to require that all shelter residents go out during daytime hours. The shelters are closed between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

All of the needed services such as child care, vocational training and job-search support -- provided at some of these shelter sites -- have been decimated. In place of these stabilizing supports, mothers with their not-yet-school-age children walk the streets, spend time in public libraries, change diapers in McDonald's restrooms, and deal with rain, snow and cold on their own.

If we only see stigma when we think about homelessness, then the crippling impact on families of a policy like this is easy to miss.

Melissa McCardle

Maureen Carey

Rockville Centre

Editor's note: The writers are an associate professor and professor at Molloy College.