In a basement meeting room of a family shelter in Southeast Washington, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and actor William Baldwin today released a comprehensive, government survey of the causes that lead people to become homeless.

Standing before a a dozen television cameras at the House of Ruth, Cuomo said arresting homeless people or sending them out of town are not solutions to this nationwide problem. Citing the two-inch thick report, he said the answer instead is to give homeless men and women the assistance they need and help them move out of shelters and into the main stream.

Cuomo said the study, based on government interviews of thousands of homeless men and women in 1996, showed that 76 percent of those who received proper assistance were able to get out of being homeless.

The report stated that homeless clients are predominantly male (68 percent) and nonwhite (53 percent). About a third of those interviewed did not have a high school diploma. More than half said they were unable to get food on a daily basis.

Alcohol and mental health problems were identified as part of their life style by about a third of those interviewed. About 25 percent said they had a problem with alcohol. Physical or sexual abuse as children was also cited by 25 percent of those interviewed.

Although the study, titled "The Forgotten Americans," was not conducted to count the homeless, the figure of 600,000 was cited.

Baldwin is president of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and political advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry. He said he would use his celebrity status to promote humane treatment of the homeless.

The study is available at www.hud.gov/news.html