Two weeks ago, members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence distributed leaflets urging commuters to contact Metro to protest the erection of what they called the "Gates of Shame." I prefer to support Carmen Turner, Metro's general manager, in her decision not to allow the subway system to be put to use for purposes for which it was not intended.
It is an abysmal shame that the mentally and physically ill and destitute are left by our city to fend for themselves, congregating within blocks of the White House and other institutions that represent the richest nation on Earth. When I returned to work downtown after several years' absence, I was appalled at the proliferation of beggars. They certainly had not suddenly multiplied. Rather, the institutions that sheltered them in the past were no longer carrying out this function.
But Metro is not one of the institutions charged with that responsibility. Expecting our transit system to become a caretaker of the indigent is simply misreading the problem and attempting to solve it by legitimizing an unacceptable status quo. It is equivalent to demanding that office buildings and museums open their lobbies to shelter the bedraggled.
It is a pity that the unsightly Farragut West fence was built. One of Metro's praiseworthy features is the beauty and simplicity of its design, which now is marred. Much worse than the fence, however, would be to allow Metro to become another Penn Station, a filthy cave into which our street people could crawl and hide while the city yet again postpones seeking direct solutions.
IRENE M. C. MAURY Garrett Park
No one wants to see homeless people in Metro stations. No one wants to see people homeless. There is something we can do.
While most of us have deplored the problem a few gallant people have tackled it, conceived a remedy and brought it halfway into being. They have left us the easier part: providing the means to complete it. A few blocks from the Capitol, at 425 2nd St. NW, is the Federal City Shelter for the homeless, still under construction, but already in use.
Visit this place! As much as the Capitol and the Mall, it is ours, part of the face of the nation. The funds President Reagan helped to provide have been used to complete half the building. We can provide the other half. Sometimes we cannot see where gifts to worthy causes go. Here is one cause where both the problem and its solution are within our view and our power to affect at once.
If everyone who objects to the sight of the homeless at Metro stops were simply to match the cost of his fare home for those who cannot go home, the Federal City Shelter could be completed. Ride by ride, we could help. Even this small amount, donated by many, could remove the blight we see and the shame it brings every ride to and from our warm homes. Winter is coming; let's finish the shelter.
CHRISTIE ALLAN-PIPER Falls Church
I have to agree with those who believe that Metro was built to transport people and not as a refuge for the homeless, and I am sorry that Mitch Snyder is so impetuously trying to make an issue of this.
If underground shelter is indeed needed to supplement other programs, how about using Dupont Circle? The streetcars used to pass under the circle, and I believe that those tunnels, though sealed, are still there. With the addition of portable toilets and lighting, they would provide warmth and protection from the elements.
DALLAS M. COORS Bethesda