Arlene Kanter of the Mental Health Law Project writes in "St. Elizabeths Is Not a Home" {Close to Home, Nov. 1,} that Dr. E. Fuller Torrey should not blame homelessness on lawyers "acting on behalf of their own ideals and not their clients' needs." But the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Montgomery County would have to agree with Dr. Torrey.

The Mental Health Law Project does help the mentally ill in many ways -- and we applaud its efforts. However, we receive many calls from desperate families that are unable to get treatment for their mentally ill loved ones because the law does not recognize that these people have a brain disease that affects their judgment.

We appreciate the fact that there should be many more community resources. This is one of our prime advocacy efforts, but in the meantime the mentally ill die on our streets, are vulnerable to attacks by others, wander aimlessly and are arrested for minor offenses. Isn't the hospital there to treat citizens who have mental illness? Hospitalization does not sentence them to a lifetime stay. They will be discharged when they have recovered and a proper living situation has been found.

A mother recently called our office and told us that her son is one of those who is not poor or without housing, but because he refuses treatment he cannot be helped. He is left to wander the streets without money, without clean clothes, without food, but, yes, he does have his "rights." It is very likely he will end up in the new institution for the mentally ill -- the jails.

The mayor New York should be congratulated for having compassion for these people and removing them to a safe environment. His is not a perfect solution, but it is humane.

SYLVIA SHERMAN Office Coordinator, Alliance for the Mentally Ill Of Montgomery County, Md., Inc. Bethesda