The homeless need social structures, not just housing
The Aug. 21 article, "Moving the homeless out of shelters into homes" which addresses methods to fight chronic homelessness, reads like a public relations release from a nonprofit agency wanting to expand its grant funding. The case profiled, the Cedano family, is not a good example of social work. Policies such as free housing can be hazards and may create more problems than they solve – it is only a short-term solution to a problem that needs consistent oversight.
The focus of sound homeless policy should be on making what are called mediating social structures and support systems – extended family networks, churches, and friends who are responsible for helping homeless families wherever possible.
Creating a perverse incentive to dump people into the homeless shelter system without additional support is a reflection of unwise social work.
US diplomats can study peacemakers
In response to the Aug. 16 editorial, "Can US diplomacy get religion?" I think the article was absolutely right when it addressed the fact that US diplomats get more training in order to better address religious ties. The challenge is how to do so effectively and how to ensure that diplomats have access to religious expertise, which translates into the practical, on-the-ground results that make religious freedom and interreligious tolerance a reality.
In its new report "Mixed Blessings," the Center for Strategic and International Studies recommends that US diplomats and military personnel going overseas receive training on local religious dynamics. One way to do this is to learn how to work with religiously motivated local men and women who are risking their lives and freedom to stop violent conflicts around the world. In fact, 16 of their stories, together with an analysis of their unique methods, are now available as a road map for diplomats.
Time and again, these local peacemakers prove that religion can be a positive force in promoting tolerance and resolving conflict. If US foreign policy does a better job of understanding the cultural differences, others will be more accepting. This can only happen if our diplomats pay attention to these local religious peacemakers and what they offer to all of us: on-the-ground expertise on how religion plays out among their people, where any hope for peaceful coexistence lies in a religiously plural world.
Executive Vice President Tanenbaum Center for Interreligous Understanding
Revolutions with good results
The Aug. 21 Opinion article, "The reality of Ukraine's revolution," says that the reforms the revolution brought have been disappointing, notwithstanding the country's greater media and religious freedom.
The article's conclusion, that revolutions have ambiguous results, misses how a revolution is accomplished. What augurs well for Ukraine is that the "Orange Revolution" was nonviolent and done by the people themselves. In a 2005 study, "How Freedom Is Won," Freedom House found that when opposition forces driving democratic transitions are nonviolent, the measured improvement in political liberty years after the transition is 76 percent higher than when the opposition uses violence. That is a reality that is most definitely not disappointing.
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Beauty of blight-resistant trees
As a forester, I enjoyed reading the Aug. 7 article, "Chestnut tree poised for comeback," which focused on a hybrid that is 25 years in the making and is designed to resist a devastating blight. I look forward to the day when we will see mature chestnut trees in our forests. It is somewhat sad to see a tree that once reached over 150 feet tall now only reaching sapling size.
One important piece of information that was not listed in the article is the effect that ink disease had on chestnut trees, especially in the southeastern US. This disease predates chestnut blight, and would still be a problem that would need to be mitigated in any restoration effort.
New Haven, Conn.
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