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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

An Open Letter to Michael Paul Williams

Michael Paul William published his take on plans for Monroe Park in today's RTD. This letter was written in this context. You might want to read it before or after reading this.

Dear Mr. Williams,

It is very disappointing to read your article this morning regarding the homeless in Monroe Park. You in no way addressed the feelings of many people in this city that this is a misuse of one of Richmond’s great parks. You painted Mo Karn as a sympathetic reasonable character that she is not rather than the shrill, uncompromising activist that she is. You failed to mention the many resources and alternatives that are currently available to groups like Food Not Bombs. At the very least you have misinformed your readers by taking this simplistic approach to a complex problem. It is the easy and the low road which paints those who are working for a better future for the park and for the city as heartless and selfish. In this matter I take personal offense.

Did you even seek alternative points of view? Did you speak to Charles Samuels, the Daily Planet or Homeward? Did you mention the dozen or so churches and social service agencies downtown that serve the poor? Did you mention that Monroe Park is almost exclusively the province of the “homeless” and those whose mission it is to minister to them? Did you mention the significant part a renewed Monroe Park could play in the resurrection of the city? Almost no one in Richmond feels welcome or safe there now. It should be a place were students lounge, play football and Frisbee, the community gathers for concerts and picnics and families bring their children to play. It is none of those things now.

Monroe Park and its neighbors have born the burden of misuse long enough. Creative plans are underway to provide alternate and improved service to the homeless. Agencies for the first time may start working together to provide a holistic approach to getting people the help they need. I need to stop now before I say something unpleasant that misrepresents what I believe. Leave it to say I am very disappointed with your treatment of this issue.

Paul Hammond

Richmond, VA

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