Ten activists protesting Metro's use of gates to keep the homeless from sleeping in the Farragut West subway station entered the fourth week of a hunger strike yesterday looking much thinner but no closer to forcing the gates' removal.

Mitch Snyder, founder of the Community for Creative Non-Violence and one of four protesters subsisting on water alone, said he has dropped from 250 pounds to 170 since he last ate on Nov. 9. The other six protesters are drinking fruit juices.

Snyder said he is tired but prepared to continue his fast until Metro removes the gates at Farragut West or creates new shelter space for the people displaced by the gates.

"The outcome is inevitable. Whether folks have to die in the process by fasting or by freezing, that is the open question," he said.

Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg said that "we really regret that {Snyder} has chosen this avenue to illustrate the plight of the homeless. But since he has made the choice, the choice is also his when to bring it to an end. It really has nothing to do with us."

Dozens of demonstrators have gathered at Farragut West each weeknight since the fast began. About 40 have been arrested, most on charges of unlawful entry for attempting to keep the station entrance open. During morning and evening rush hours, small groups kneel above the escalators at 17th and I streets NW and pray.

In the meantime, Metro General Manager Carmen E. Turner and other transit officials have met several times with D.C. Social Services Commissioner Marjorie Hall Ellis to discuss measures Metro might take, but the most recent meeting took place more than a week ago and the next session has not been scheduled, Ellis said.

Ellis said a proposal to convert unused buses into shelters is still under consideration.

The transit authority has taken no action to lock other subway stations, a possibility it raised more than six weeks ago, although it cites statistics that suggest such action might find popular support. In more than 350 telephone calls to Metro offices through Nov. 16, citizens have endorsed the use of gates at Farragut West by a 2-to-1 ratio, according to Metro officials.

Metro officials who built the gates as "an operational response to a maintenance problem" never anticipated the controversy that would result and are now looking for "something both symbolic and real that will show people that Metro people are caring," Silverberg said, adding that the complexities of homelessness defy simple remedies.

Snyder said he would welcome any effort to help homeless people, but warned that he would not abandon his fast until warm space is restored in the vicinity of Farragut West.

Snyder has maintained a routine work schedule and neither he nor any of the other hunger strikers have received medical attention, a CCNV spokesman said.

While many people who work in D.C. soup kitchens and homeless shelters have praised Snyder for focusing attention on the homeless, some have called his methods counterproductive.

"This is just grandstanding, pure and simple. All he's out for is an ego trip," said John Mahoney, who helps run a St. Francis Catholic Worker shelter. Mahoney said Snyder's time would be better spent tending to the homeless in the CCNV shelter.

Snyder, when asked about Mahoney's comments, said, "We're convinced that what we're doing is right and necessary."