To the editor:

I work at a homeless shelter and when I heard that Mary and John and their newborn baby were turned away Christmas Eve because the shelter was filled beyond capacity, I was reminded of a similar story that took place 2000 years ago. The names were slightly different but the response was the same: "There was no room for them in the inn."It seems today that there is no room physically - no shelter, but also mentally - no acceptance, for the homeless. The majority of American society has overcome the stereotypical image of the homeless being only skid-row alcoholic bums. People in general now realize that there are men, women and children, single parents and families in need of help.

And they are not bums. They are people down on their luck, people who got sick and lost their jobs, those without families to rely on for help, or at least without family who will help them. Most are not asking for a handout, they only want a job that pays more than minimum wage so they can really make a living. They want the opportunity to continue their education. They want to pursue their dreams just like each of us does. But they cannot do it alone. They need every one of us.

They need people willing to teach them English or teach them how to read and write. They need someone to tutor them as they complete their GED. They need employers willing to give them another chance, or willing to give them their first opportunity; employers who will hire them at more than minimum wage so they can make progress instead of just surviving; employers who will let them work in the clothes they have until they can afford to buy more appropriate attire.

They need bankers and accountants to teach classes on how to live within a budget and manage their money; architects, carpenters, plumbers and electricians willing to donate their time and skills to build better low-income housing; housewives willing to teach them how to care for themselves and the homes they will eventually have . . . things they may not have learned from their parents because their parents were not taught.

They need landlords who will allow them to prove themselves without the preconceived notions that accompany the label "homeless" They need politicians who understand that homelessness has nothing to do with one political party or another - it has to do with struggling individuals.

The homeless deal with guilt and shame, despair and hopelessness and they need encouragement, patience and hope. It is not a problem that the government can solve. No amount of money will take care of the entire problem. Only we can do that by combining our resources, our talents, our efforts. We all have something to offer.

Jennifer Furley

Salt Lake City

Editor's note: Reports of people being turned away at the Salt Lake Homeless Shelter were untrue. Although the rumor was widespread, it had no foundation in fact.