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by Abigail Van Buren

Sister of Homeless Man Appeals for Compassion

DEAR ABBY: I have a brother, "Stan," who has been homeless for a decade. Stan is borderline schizophrenic. He goes through periods when he hears voices, believes things to be true that aren't, and does not keep himself clean. He has always had trouble dealing with people.

Although I am younger than Stan, I have taken on the responsibility of sending him money, getting him out of trouble, etc. He is often unappreciative, but I realize his problems are beyond his control.

Every day I thank my lucky stars that I am mentally healthy and can get up every morning with the resolve to work and enjoy my life and relationships with people.

I'm writing because I often hear others make comments about "the homeless" -- that they are lazy, drunk, etc. People don't realize that while they're airing their distorted views, a relative of a homeless person could be in their presence.

I have struggled with Stan's mental illness and the problems it causes him, trying to get him proper treatment and shelter. For people to imply that I should tell him to get a job conveys nothing but ignorance. Homeless people have a disability that is not visible.

So why do people persist in believing the homeless choose their fate? Because it means they don't have to feel compassion or try to help. Please print this so people will open their minds before making insensitive, ignorant, black-and-white statements. -- SISTER WHO CARES IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR SISTER: I'm not sure that I agree with your conclusion that people persist in believing the homeless choose their fate so they won't have to feel compassion or try to help.

I think there is an element of fear when we are confronted by the homeless. Some of them are so ill, talking to people who aren't there, that there is a fear they might become violent.

Also, many people live from paycheck to paycheck. In other words, they're only a paycheck away from being homeless themselves. And that in itself is so frightening that people want to distance themselves so they won't have to think about that terrifying reality.

DEAR ABBY: I have been friendly with "Janet," my neighbor, for 12 years. When my daughter "Heather" turned 19, she moved out. Heather, who is irresponsible and immature, then went behind my back and asked Janet to co-sign for an apartment for her and one of her girlfriends. Without consulting me, Janet agreed.

Well, Heather and her friend got evicted, owing their landlord $2,400. Janet called me and told me I should pay her for Heather's portion of the rent. I told her, "Sorry, I can't help you." Janet became very upset and now refuses to have anything to do with me.

Heather enlisted in the Army and is out of the country. Janet still calls and threatens me. I feel bad about this because she was a good friend. What do I do? -- A MOTHER IN FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR MOTHER: Do nothing. Janet made a bad business decision that has nothing to do with you. Also, Janet is NOT your friend. She conspired with your child to undermine your authority as a parent. She has learned an expensive lesson the hard way. Now please stop grieving for her.

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