Concerning Metrorail's recent decision to erect a chain-link fence at the Farragut West station to prevent the homeless from using the station after hours as a toilet, etc. {Metro, Oct. 17}, I am sick and tired of Mitch Snyder and others crying "foul" (no pun intended) every time a government agency attempts to protect the health and welfare of the general public.

Yes, it is sad that Washington, like many other cities across the country, has a growing number of homeless on the streets. But allowing these individuals to use subway stations as a refuge is not the answer. Mr. Snyder's suggestion that Metro install a public toilet is not the answer either. As Metro has correctly stated, its business is to provide public transportation, not a facility for the unfortunate homeless.

Having previously resided in Boston and New York City and now as a daily commuter on Metrorail, I can attest to what a wonderful system we have here. Now, almost 11 years after the subway's inception, the Washington transit authority should be commended for maintaining one of the safest, cleanest and most efficient systems in the country -- a joy to use for both residents and the thousands of tourists who visit our city every year. What's wrong with trying to keep it that way? BARBARA KUNTZ MURPHY Washington

I am a commuter who uses the Farragut West Metro stop. I have also become acquainted with some of the homeless people who are being forced out into the cold by Metro's policy of closing the station entrance at night. People are living in the subway because it is their best option -- a sad comment on the city's housing situation.

I am not delighted by the sights and scents of homelessness, but the smell of urine and unwashed bodies is infinitely preferable to the stench of moral decay of a society that would allow homeless people to freeze to death because they offend our senses. To see a homeless woman begging in the Metro is far less disturbing than to read that woman's name in an article on deaths from hypothermia.

Instead of shutting out the homeless, we should go home and thank God we have jobs, warm beds and clean bathrooms and work toward the day when all people may enjoy these rights. ANNE FULLERTON Arlington

The controversy over the installation of gates at the Farragut West station is, like other similar controversies, in danger of taking place at the wrong level. The escalator technicians' complaints of working amid the stench of urine deserve recognition and response. But, as usual, the ultimate victims -- the homeless -- suffer.

The conflict is not one between the homeless and their advocates on one hand and Metro officials on the other; it is between the homeless and the system that has created and that fosters their condition. State, not Metro, officials carry responsibility for that system.

This is not said, however, to let Metro officials off the hook, for it is worth considering whether the $3,700 spent on gates to lock out people seeking shelter might be better spent if donated to an agency for the homeless. HILARY HOUSE Washington