Thank you for the article ("Slipping Through the Cracks," June 13). You may be wondering why someone as far away as Minnesota is interested in news from Lafayette, Louisiana. I once met a man on the Internet playing spades in a game room. His nickname was "a blue eyed tramp." I started a conversation with him out of curiosity and asked him why he chose the nickname. He said he was a tramp and was not ashamed of it. He calls himself a "shelter tramp." I know him as Brian, and he is my friend.

As the days went by, he and I had many conversations about how he became homeless because of the bad choices he made and how his health problems with his heart slowly took away his options in life. He shared with me his many adventures on the road, traveling on trains across the country, living on the streets for six years, and ultimately arriving at St. Joseph's Homeless Shelter for Men.

My perception of the homeless was truly enlightened by Brian. He taught me the good and bad about the homeless and that what it looks like is not always what it is. I count it a privilege to have him as my friend. The issue of the homeless has been put on the back burner. As my friend said to me, "The government says there are no homeless people." Who then are these people who find themselves sleeping inside cardboard boxes or under bridges and who dig through leftover garbage containers to feed themselves? How did it get this point, and when does it stop? When did the homeless become less than human beings?

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