D.C. Mayor Marion Barry told about 500 people gathered yesterday for a summit on homelessness that the government cannot be expected to solve the problem without the help of the community and area businesses.
"The government cannot do it and should not do it alone," Barry said to applause. "This is our community, not mine. Let's not be guilty of merely warehousing people."
The summit, at the Washington Convention Center, was organized by the D.C. Homeless Coordinating Council, a three-month-old group headed by developer Oliver T. Carr Jr. The council was appointed to advise Barry and serve as an advocate for the homeless.
The meeting was billed as one in which a plan for action would be developed.
Most of the conference participants agreed that the lack of permanent housing is the biggest problem facing the homeless. But participants assigned to a workshop to develop housing solutions concluded they needed time and recommended having another two-day meeting.
After workshops on employment, health care and food and nutrition, several groups recommended creating and making available resource directories to the homeless, and lobbying the private sector to make financial contributions and other commitments, such as providing job training to the homeless.
But James M. Dickerson, a member of the coordinating council and director of Manna Inc., said that despite good intentions, he was convinced that the summit -- the third that he had attended in five years -- would not result in badly needed actions.
"Things are no different from when we started except they are getting bigger," Dickerson said.