Letters for March 21, 2002

Homeless haggling

 No evidence: In regard to Steve Ellman's March 14 story, "Making Airwaves," there can be little doubt that "The Dick" Farrel will lose his court case against the former schoolteacher, Larry Ferrara. After all, Farrel, according to New Times, has offered no proof Ferrara is a pedophile or a threat to young boys. Hopefully, WPBR-AM and its owners, who failed to investigate the situation or get Farrel to stop his, in my opinion, defamatory rants, will be found guilty too.

"The Dick," Farrel, was quoted as saying, "But I have no religion. The fact is, my mother's Jewish." Yes, according to Jewish law, "The Dick," Farrel, is Jewish. What does it say about "The Dick" that he denies his Jewishness?

In closing, the photos of those cheap, Kmart-type plastic chairs in front of the storefront operation known as WPBR clearly give one a clue as to what's going on inside the palatial studios. Plastic, cheap radio at its worst!

Harvey Slavin

One answer: Thank you for the article ("Gimme Shelter," Wyatt Olson, March 7) on the complex issues of homelessness in Broward County. I have found that New Times can and does provide an in-depth treatment of this and other topics.

The more serious question that the article deals with is access by homeless persons to shelter. The impression left by your article, and the statements from the central county outreach team, was that the South Homeless Assistance Center (HAC) or Broward Outreach Center (BOC) serves very few homeless persons. The South HAC was not built for the needs of Central Broward. It was built to serve the homeless population in and around Hollywood. The number of homeless people accessing the South HAC as a result of outreach efforts in South Broward is several hundred persons a year.

As the article points out, the county contracts with the South HAC not just for "emergency beds," as critics claim, but for both emergency and transitional beds at the same location. The larger central HAC has access to and utilizes transitional beds through a county contract for off-site space. Regardless, homeless people are generally better able to avoid returning to the street if they can stay in a residential program longer. As far as the COSAC Foundation being the "real HAC" for South Broward, it should be noted that the COSAC reportedly imports homeless residents to sell its Homeless Voice from throughout South Florida and as far away as Key West. My office deals fairly and contracts with dozens of different homeless service providers. The COSAC Foundation has applied for county funds and federal funds through the county but either did not meet threshold requirements for an award or did not demonstrate readiness to fulfill federal and/or county requirements.

My role as Homeless Initiative Partnership administrator requires that I collaborate with a wide variety of stake-holders in the community. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the consistent top national ranking of Broward County's homeless services delivery system by U.S. HUD has been the willingness of the vast majority of local service providers, administrators, and advocates to collaborate for the benefit of homeless persons. My friendship and professional collaboration with BOC Director Allen Reesor, as well as others, has contributed to the success of our continuum of care.

Finally, the suggestion that I or my staff influenced the selection of an operator for the North Homeless Assistance Center is disproved by the way the process worked. As the article pointed out, staff did not make a recommendation to the review committee but merely rated two applicants as qualified.

The New Times article poses the question, "The homeless of Broward County will soon have another refuge, but how many of them will get to use it?" Many critics of the North HAC, which has not yet even begun to operate, were also critical of the central HAC. They said, "No one will go there." But the Central HAC has been full every night since it opened. I am willing to bet that the North HAC will serve hundreds, and even thousands, of homeless men, women, and children, effectively, not long after we celebrate its opening in a few months.

Steve Werthman
Homeless Initiative Partnership
Fort Lauderdale

If you like the Reesors, you'll love the Bushes: I just read "Gimme Shelter" and was shocked to learn about Dr. Allen Reesor and the Broward Outreach Center.

I am a 53-year-old male who lived on the streets of Fort Lauderdale for five years. I lived in Fort Lauderdale's Tent City. I was one of the first people to move into the Central Homeless Assistance Center, when it was new. I have only been there one time since. You talk about how the HAC and the other homeless shelters are so great, but look at the results.

Most of the other shelters are just a place to get you off the streets for a short period of time. They give you a place to be drug- and alcohol-free, a place to rest and clean up; then it's back on the streets again only to repeat the cycle. At the BOC, we have a chance to look at ourselves and our lives. We learn to grow not only physically but mentally and spiritually. The place gives us a chance to take care of medical, legal, and educational problems. We learn the computer business and get our GEDs as well as other schooling we need to better ourselves. We hope to give back to society what we have taken.

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