LETTER- Drop-In Center no "flophouse"

<P>I received an e-mail from a friend suggesting I read the article [April 14: "Up with people: But On Our Own dollars down"<B> </B>], which I did. I was utterly disappointed by the lack of compassion and caring shown by Will Gallik and Debbie Smith, the present spokespeople from that organization.
<P>I was one of the original founders and directors (for 10 years) of the organization, and I know that neither of these people ever came to the Center during those years as we were developing the projects and programs that were at the heart of the unique program known as the Drop-In Center.
<P>Rather than "cleaning up its image," Gallik has insulted people who are homeless and were welcome at the Center for those years– people with multiple problems but who were respectful of the rules created by those who utilized the Center. According to Debbie Smith, lots of people were "afraid to come to the Center." I challenge her statement since it is made without her own experience.
<P>The Drop In Center was <I>never</I> a "flophouse" but served persons who had no resources and felt that the Center was a safe place where they could rest, wash clothes, take a shower, eat a decent meal, and have a place to get mail, receive and make phone calls, and get information about jobs and housing.
<P>Many of those people were folks who had been discharged from large mental hospitals and were without benefits– which we helped them access. We partnered with many agencies including Social Services, Region Ten, Free Clinic, Social Security, UVA Psychiatry, UVA Law and Psychiatry, AA, and NA.
<P>In fact, UPS (the men in brown) thought so much of what we were doing they donated $100,000 for us to purchase a building– the very one from which Gallik wishes to exclude those persons who were the recipients of the funding.
<P>Ours was considered a model program. It was written up by a researcher who toured the country and concluded that the three most progressive Drop-In Centers were in New York, San Francisco, and Charlottesville!
<P><B>Shela Silverman<BR></B>Program Director, Contac del Oeste<BR>New Mexico<BR><I>shelasilverman1@msn.com