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Originally published Wednesday, November 29, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

Dining out

Little for idle hands when so may others have theirs full

Editor, The Times:

Oh great. Here it is the beginning of the holiday season and what should appear but "Just say no to panhandlers?" [Times page one, Nov. 25]. How compassionate.

Many years ago, I worked in a business that required people to do incredibly dirty, difficult and dangerous work for low pay. It's a world so invisible to most of us in the modern, urban world that it has become the subject for an intriguing TV reality show. And aren't we amazed people will do such jobs? Why would they? No doubt the reasons are as varied as the people themselves, but it is important to know that people do them and these jobs are necessary to our society. They work their [hides] off, often jeopardizing their health and safety, because the jobs need doing and they need the money.

I have a simple rule I use when people beg me (that's what it is) for money on the street. I say no. I imagine if everybody said "no," the beggars would be forced into the public services available to them or, at least, move onto greener pastures.

If public services are not available, then let me know and I will contribute my part.

Maybe my approach makes me seem dispassionate and uncharitable. To the contrary, I say. If I were to give money to someone asking for it on the street, I would be spitting in the faces of people who work so damn hard for their money.

If it costs me more to have the minimum wage higher or to have free public health or to fund day care, then OK, let's do it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to give two bucks to the guy who asks me for money on the street for doing nothing when I can remember the look of my co-workers at the end of their day.

— Rocco Cappeto, Seattle

Nothing left to waste

Businesses handing out brochures to tourists [instructing them how to deal with panhandling] mean simply to dehumanize those already on the margins — the homeless.

We — so busy in our hustle and bustle, buying extraneous gifts in this season where we are encouraged to greedily overspend our budgets — ought to stop for a moment and reflect. I want us to reflect upon community and social-support networks.

Whom do we push into the shadows because we are afraid to see the truth? Why do people ask for money? It's complex. Nonetheless, panhandlers are people whom we can simply choose to ignore or give money — nothing more, nothing less.

I know I don't need to read a brochure to understand this! Talk to a panhandler sometime. Get to know who he or she is and understand that not everyone has walked an easy path, that access to money is not equal and sometimes we must ask for help. You may even make a new friend.

— Jamie St. Ledger, Bellevue

Thorns of plenty

One of the sad facts of visiting any downtown in the United States is encountering homeless people and panhandlers. How sad it is for Christmas shoppers, buying presents for people who have everything, to see the face of poverty.

Panhandlers are often frauds, like many other advertisers; they don't want food, but money for drugs or alcohol.

Printing a brochure on how to deal with panhandlers is just another way of not dealing with the real issues of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction.

What if the downtown associations created enough supported housing for every citizen in Seattle, so that no one had to panhandle or live on the street? It might take more money than they have individually, but with government help, it could be done.

There is no reason our prosperous country couldn't house everyone and provide the support they need not to get evicted from their housing.

It might be easier to write a brochure, but providing a permanent solution might boost downtown shopping to even greater heights. Thus downtown could get more of the share of wasteful giving of those who need to clean out their closet rather than get more.

— Sherye Hanson, Kent

Dinner at home

First we make the bread

I read with interest and then consternation Daniel Hong's "The happiest meal of all" [guest commentary, Nov. 24], on the family meal.

Apparently Mr. Hong lives in a different world than most of the families I know. None of the dads I know spends seven hours golfing, nor the moms hours having leisurely conversations with friends.

As for girls not wanting to help mom in the kitchen: What about boys and men in the kitchen?

The reality is that over 60 percent of kids live in families that are not conventional, and the land of two-parent families with the financial stability to take the time to be at home and fix dinner got sucked up long ago in the market-driven economy we live in — especially in Seattle. I know many parents who work two jobs, and if the choice is between having dinner with your family and actually making enough money to feed them dinner, it is foolish to think a parent is going to not work that second job.

Perhaps Mr. Hong should take a trip to other communities to see how families juggle financial responsibility with family responsibility in a never-ending rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul cycle. I consider my own family rare in that we do dine together at least half the time during the week, and my husband's cooking equals and often surpasses my own. Not the typical scenario, in my observation.

So while I agree with Mr. Hong that devoting time to dining together results in better familial relationships, the reality remains that many families do not have the luxury to sit down at home in the Leave-it-to-Beaver-infused soft kitchen light Mr. Hong exhorts us to dine beneath.

— India Carlson, Seattle

Icing on the cake

You forgot the salt

Right about now, all Midwesterners and East Coasters who live in Seattle are shaking their heads at the panic-stricken coverage of "THE BIG STORM" ["Weather forces city, traffic to a halt," page one, Nov. 28]. Newscasters Tuesday morning pleaded, practically hysterically, with the viewers to stay home and not leave their houses!

The solution is so very simple, for any major city, or Department of Transportation that wants a solution. Guess what! Salt and sand get rid of ice on roads! Snow plows and road crews actually help clear interstates and prevent accidents, when you use them!

As a former Minnesotan, it is unthinkable to me that several inches of snow and ice would bring a city to a standstill and produce such panic. Plan, prepare, and decide if you want to be a city that properly handles this type of weather! It is not rocket science, folks.

— Janet Engel, Seattle

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