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16 J. Legis. 127 (1989-1990)


Forums such as this develop our understanding of current efforts to bring about positive change for America's poor. The Journal's compilation and dissemination of important, thoughtful essays on poverty is laudable.

The one thing that is clear about the poor and the homeless is that their problems are multi-faceted. No one theory or group can provide all the solutions. People are poor and homeless for a wide variety of reasons, and they need different kinds of help. Providing more income assistance will not cure poverty, and providing more housing will not remedy homelessness. Neither the public nor the private sector can find solutions without the cooperation of each other. Since the sources of poverty and homelessness are varied, the poor and the homeless have needs that are personal to each individual or family. Basic needs are food, shelter and clothing. Some need medical care, mental health counseling and medication, legal aid, benefits counseling, job training, job and housing placement assistance, alcohol and other drug abuse counseling, literacy and other education assistance, day care and a wide variety of other social services. The obligation to provide for all of these needs is not simply based on charity or government largess. The obligation is a matter of justice, remembering that justice is not simply treating everyone equally, but treating everyone according to their needs.

You will see in the pages that follow that much research focuses upon poverty and its consequences. After reading the following papers, one could understandably conclude that because the needs of the poor are so complex, poverty is an intractable social condition about which little can be done.

Hopefully the solutions and proposals offered in the following articles will elicit debate and criticism and, ultimately, positive action. Many people who abhor injustices such as homelessness or poverty may sincerely disagree about practical approaches to achieve justice. Although the following papers present divergent views, the changes they propose in social welfare policy merit consideration. It would be a shame if some of the innovative proposals contained in this issue of the Journal go unused because poverty seems implacable.



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