Over the years, Mitch Snyder's life has been a problem and an inspiration for me: he has made me feel angry, compassionate and guilty, and always puzzled as to how far I should go to help my destitute fellow human beings.

But his op-ed article Nov. 13 was on target. He is absolutely right. How do we have the nerve to deny the homeless available shelter? These people who look so strange and often behave so oddly -- these are somebody's children who have gotten lost somewhere along the way. And they need shelter now to stay alive on cold nights.

It's good that the city continues to make more shelter space available, but we must deal with tonight and all the cold nights to follow. Surely we can all stand some inconveniences in our use of Metro so that others won't freeze to death. MARION McCARTNEY Washington

As I walked home through the snowstorm Nov. 11, I wondered what was going through the minds of the Metro officials who constructed the fence around the Farragut West Metro station to keep homeless men, women and children from seeking shelter there.

As I arrived home, put on a warm sweater and lit a fire in my fireplace, I tried to imagine being homeless and knowing that even my miserable refuge of cold, hard, underground cement had been denied me because of a conscious decision that cleanliness was more important than human decency.

The tragedy of the many homeless individuals in Washington is not just their problem. It is all of ours. It represents a collective failure of our society to provide decent shelter to all of its population. As I thought bitterly about Metro's decision, my only comfort was in hoping that sanity and decency would prevail: I hoped that it wouldn't just be homeless people losing sleep this winter over Metro's cruel decision. JEFF SCHWABER Washington

Mitch Snyder's recent announcement of a hunger strike to force Metro to remove the security fence from the Farragut West station is yet another example of his egotistic, self-serving attempt at media attention. The plight of the destitute in the D.C. area is tragic, to be sure, but it is not Metro's job to provide a home for the homeless. Users of the Metro system have a right to expect in the future the cleanliness they have known in the past, and allowing people to use subway stations as bedrooms and bathrooms would not allow that cleanliness to continue.

Mr. Snyder's suggestion that portable toilets be placed in Metro stations misses the point. Again, Metro's job is not to provide housing. It is to provide a safe, efficient, clean mode of transportation for all residents of the metropolitan area. Mr. Snyder should get off his high horse and stop using the hunger strike as a holier-than-thou form of protest. KATHRYN B. GEORGE Arlington