While not playing down the results of Alexandria's welfare reform, a look at an average family's finances is hardly reassuring ["Study Finds Post-Welfare Improvements," Virginia Weekly, Dec. 16]. According to the paper, the average family income for those coming off welfare is just $1,058 per month. This is not enough to pay for housing, unless it is subsidized, or child care, unless it is subsidized. Rents in Northern Virginia are soaring, taking advantage of a tight housing market. In many cases, landlords will not accept any tenants who earn less than $30,000 per year.

With less expensive two-bedroom apartments renting for $700--plus utilities--the family budget is not going to be enough to cover housing expenses plus food, transportation, child care, medicine and other essentials. In addition, even when families have health insurance they may not have health benefits such as sick leave. So a sick child or adult may not "cost" in a doctor's visit, but it will cost in lost wages.

We cannot consider social-service reform a success unless we provide access to affordable, decent housing and child care. If welfare reform is to be successful, below-market rentals are essential. Becoming homeless does not help families achieve success.

SHIRLEY M. MARSHALL

Executive Director

Good Shepherd Housing

And Family Services Inc.

Alexandria