Letter to the editor: Helping the poor

To the editor:

We have just been through a brutal stretch of winter weather. Can you imagine what it would be like to be homeless in such conditions?

There have been many stories of homeless people coming to a tragic end — some of them combat veterans who lost their jobs, and some of them children.

There are charities that help the homeless — and often do good work, as far as it goes. But such charities are chronically underfunded, and may not be present — or present with sufficient capability — where needed. Charitable provision is likely to be inadequate, especially in poorer areas.

I believe that it ought to be generally recognized that it is a public obligation — and a responsibility of the government — to help the least fortunate of our citizens.

It could be done. What I envision as basic is a series of barracks-like shelters, established where needed across the country. They could be staffed by government workers who would provide security and meals, help the homeless people get medical care, and, for those who are able, find work.

It probably could all be funded for less than the cost of one more aircraft carrier.

And as John Stuart Mill observed, “Since the state must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime.”