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Posted at 7:28 PM ET, 06/ 8/2010

Streetcars vs. aid for the homeless

By editors

By Tom Howarth

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward.5) says the District has to look at its priorities because they are “mixed up” [“Spreading D.C.’s money around,” front page, June 6]. Is he right? During the recent budget battle, council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) recommended delaying a streetcar project in order to save social programs.

He got hammered by everyone from a Georgetown grad student to a congressman from Oregon. Delay our streetcar line — how dare they? Meanwhile, at the 801 East homeless shelter on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, there is one, count ’em, one case manager for the 380 homeless men who sleep there. If we at the Father McKenna Center have more than we can handle seeing 100 homeless men per weekday, how much more difficult must it be to serve the mental health needs of 380 men?

Streetcars are nice to have, but are they more important than the basic mental health needs of the homeless? Or is it that streetcars will serve people who matter, and the folks at 801 East don’t?

The writer is director of the Father McKenna Center.

By editors  | June 8, 2010; 7:28 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic  
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Yes, Mr. Howarth, of course street cars and overall quality of life in our nation's capital are far more important than hapless drug addicts and other mentally ill homeless men and women.

Just as D.C.'s overly generous welfare policies for decades have promoted the growth of a disproportionately high population of unemployable single mothers and doomed fatherless children that overwhelm our schools, city services, courts and jail, similarly generous policies have attracted homeless losers from all across the Mid-Atlantic region.

It's time to prioritize policies that benefit "important" people -- productively employed, law-abiding taxpayers. The city has for too long been home to far too many losers grifting for a free ride. Let's finally roll up the welcome matt and drive a significant percentage of them out of town to lower-cost jurisdictions where they might actually be able to compete for menial jobs and rudimentary housing of their own.

Posted by: mckdarrenDC | June 9, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@ Howarth and mckdarrenDC
How emphatically I agree with mckdarrenDC! The majority of the tax paying popluation is far more important than those who will not help themselves. Bring back institutionalization and the majority of this problem and the problems they create would be solved.
I saw a 20 something woman on the Metro yesterday with 4 kids and one on the way - no wedding ring - on her cell phone stating her food stamp card wasn't working and she was on her way to welfare to get another! I saw a mentally ill man assault a woman in Columbia Heights by pulling her hair and screaming at her. The police saw it and just shewed him away. I see thugs and thugslets all around this city getting by on the welfare system and social services while at the same time harrasing those around them and lowering the quality of life for those who are paying for these ridiculous social programs. I say end it all - let bad decisions bring about bad consequences. That day is coming.

Posted by: jmaynard2 | June 9, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Improvements such as Street Cars attract more residents and business, with them comes added ++Tax Revenues++.

Having lived here for 30 years I embrace all these improvements which haven given the city the tax base to accomplish just about every charitable program you can find. Compare DC to Baltimore and you'll see what I mean.

DC was in miserable shape 20 years ago, had little hope for any improvement, residents and businesses were fleeing to NOVA in droves (the road to Dulles was empty in those days- I weep at what that revenue could have done for DC) and the city was known all over the world as the "Murder Capitol."

Sorry, I'll opt for improvement as a means to a charitable end.

Posted by: LeastOfThese | June 9, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Street cars would help the homeless by giving them a good way to get around town so they could take the streetcars to work...ooops, wait...let me rephrase that, streetcars would be great because it would give the homeless another captive group of people to pester and harrass while they wait for a streetcar on THEIR way to work.

Posted by: Daedulus | June 9, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

How can Mr. Howarth's conclude that the needs of the one eclipse the needs of the many? Who has ever been promised a home? Who expects not to work and survive?

While social programs expand our collective infrastructure crumbles - our bridges decay, our transportation systems fall apart. Our water and sewage treatment plants fail and pollute. We're barely keeping up let alone preparing for the coming decades. Is it moral to leave the future generations strapped with our failures while we expand social programs? There is a larger question here and I fear we're failing at the answer. Prioritize our collective good.

Posted by: abrazee | June 9, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Streetcars take priority. Homeless people can sleep in them.

Posted by: MikeLicht | June 9, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

You guys are all heart...But please remember "There but for the grace of God, go you."

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | June 9, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

PracticalIndependent wrote:

You guys are all heart...But please remember "There but for the grace of God, go you."


It's moronic jackholes like yourself that created the situation which perpetuates the indigent lives of these street people.

You keep paying others to give them one fish a day and feel pride at your "accomplishment."

The homeless will NEVER leave the streets using the services into which you wish to dump MORE of MY money - it is a cruel bandaid, not a solution for the city.

If you want to spend MY money - you will do it MY way.

Posted by: ecalderon | June 9, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The better question is, can we afford a 1 billion dollar streetcar system and 400k+ dog parks at a time when the District is in a fiscal deficit with no savings?

It is irresponsible spending on boutique projects that are better served during times of economic excess.

That time is not now. At the rate we are going, we will have streetcars run by the federal control board.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 10, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

>>>irresponsible spending on boutique projects

how is it a "boutique project" when the first street car line that will go in will be in Anacostia and will link an area underserved by Metro to the rest of the city? I also agree with the other post here that these improvements will draw more business and tax revenue, thereby funding your free handout programs.

How can improving and expanding mass transit in any city be a bad thing? Jeesh.

Posted by: juantana | June 10, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

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