Opinion | A Homeless Camp and a Business, Side by Side in Phoenix

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To the Editor:

Re “A Homeless Camp Crisis at a Sandwich Shop’s Door,” by Eli Saslow (front page, March 19):

Mr. Saslow very articulately describes the explosion of homelessness in Phoenix and other cities across the country. But the crisis he describes is as much caused by the decline in the availability of mental health services in our country as it is by economic circumstances.

For decades this country has dismantled inpatient mental health care and cut back on outpatient care, to the point that those with the greatest need are often denied humane and urgently needed services.

Until we turn this around, any attempts to curb homelessness will be sadly inadequate.

Donald E. Heller
San Francisco
The writer is a retired provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.

To the Editor:

I volunteered and worked in the homeless arena in Phoenix for more than seven years. Eli Saslow’s article is the best I have ever read about homelessness. He humanizes every person and presents both sides with grace and respect.

It’s rare to hear about the business people affected by homelessness and their courage and kindness. And also rare to see homeless people presented with some humanity. We usually only hear about statistics and labels.

On Monday, a judge ordered the city of Phoenix to clean up the encampment area, citing among other things the impact on the local small businesses. I believe that Mr. Saslow’s article had an impact.

Joan Lowell
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I read “A Homeless Camp Crisis at a Sandwich Shop’s Door” and later, in the same issue, “Where $250,000 Gets You Dinner” (Sunday Styles, March 19).

I am 80 years old. This is not the America I was told about when I was growing up, where all I was taught was undergirded by the notion of “American exceptionalism.”

We truly are “exceptional,” but not in any way of which I am proud.

Stephen Phillips
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Yes, President Bush Is a Hero on AIDS, but …

To the Editor:

Re “In This Story, George W. Bush Is the Hero,” by Adam B. Ellick, Jonah M. Kessel and Nicholas Kristof (Opinion video, nytimes.com, March 21):

Mr. Kristof may be right that President George W. Bush can be labeled a hero for introducing and supporting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a highly successful program to address H.I.V. and AIDS.

Yet if we are telling the whole story, we should not forget that the Bush administration negotiated a series of free trade agreements with many low- and middle-income countries. Those agreements forced those countries to introduce additional intellectual property rules, at the behest of multinational pharmaceutical companies, that increased prices for medicines, including antiretrovirals to treat H.I.V. and AIDS.

These rules, which apply to countries in Central and South America, the Middle East and East Asia, remain in place today, placing an unnecessary burden on health systems and households that face a growing burden of infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

If we are to honor the legacy of PEPFAR, the Biden administration, which has prioritized reducing drug prices in the United States, should eliminate these onerous obligations in its existing trade agreements, and give these governments the ability to provide affordable health care to their people.

Rohit Malpani
The writer is former director of policy and analysis at Doctors Without Borders.

To the Editor:

I was working in Africa from 1999 to 2005 to advance palliative care. I witnessed emaciated AIDS patients alone in great pain and often stigmatized. And many poor, exhausted grandmothers trying to raise their children’s children.

After George W. Bush’s announcement and swift implementation of PEPFAR, the change was a true miracle. The most potent symbol was moms raising their kids. They still faced struggles — food, side effects, poverty. But they were alive, giving their kids love and protection.

Mr. Bush deserves great praise for his extraordinary humanitarian action.

Bev Sloan
Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Separating Families Needlessly

To the Editor:

“Pandemic Data Cited as Sign City Splits Too Many Families” (news article, March 16) highlights what many in the child welfare sector know is true: Too many families are needlessly separated and placed in foster care in the name of safety.

We take our responsibility to ensure kids’ safety extremely seriously. But we also take seriously the harms perpetuated by this system, because separating a family causes significant trauma with real consequences. To minimize the harms baked into our systems, we must actively reckon with two facts.

First, most kids are removed from their families because of neglect, not abuse, and the symptoms of neglect heavily overlap with symptoms of poverty. Second, there remain huge racial disparities in family separation, with Black families in particular dramatically overrepresented.

While we have made some progress, we envision a future in which removing kids from their homes is extremely rare. To realize this future, our systems must dedicate more resources to increasing prevention work, such as in-home family therapy, in addition to addressing structural racism and ultimately reducing poverty.

Jeremy Kohomban
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
The writer is the president and C.E.O. of The Children’s Village.

Opera and Politics: Netrebko and Putin

To the Editor:

Re “Met Opera Ordered to Pay Anna Netrebko $200,000 for Canceled Performances” (nytimes.com, March 17), about an arbitrator’s decision that the Russian soprano should be paid despite her performances being canceled after she refused to denounce Vladimir Putin:

Opera is an international art form that, in my opinion, should not subject performers to the type of treatment that Ms. Netrebko was subjected to by the Metropolitan Opera.

Artists such as Ms. Netrebko should be judged for their artistic talents, not their political attitudes.

To do otherwise opens a Pandora’s box that will be hard to close.

John A. Viteritti
Laurel, N.Y.

A Victory for the Kangaroos

To the Editor:

In a 1987 story called “Kangaroos Stir a Debate,” The Times spotlighted the barbaric commercial massacre of one of the most endearing animals on the planet in order to make soccer cleats.

That debate was largely settled this month, with two of the world’s largest soccer shoe manufacturers — Nike and Puma — announcing they will stop using the skins of wild marsupials shot overseas to make their shoes.

Global soccer stars will be wearing synthetic football boots instead of “k-leather” on the pitch. Synthetics may offer better fit and comfort, but make no mistake, this is social change on a massive scale.

When powerful corporations respond to consumers and animal welfare advocates who prefer not to wear cruelty-inspired shoes or participate in the death of joeys chased down and bludgeoned after watching their mothers shot, good things happen.

Julie Marshall
The writer is national communications coordinator of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, which originated the Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign in 2020.

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