Defending Michael Dunn and Admitting the Problem

In Defense of Dunn

So in this article [Editor’s Note, “Some Justice. No Peace,” Jeffrey C. Billman, Feb. 19], you blame Mike Dunn and George Zimmerman for defending themselves against two black kids. Let me just say this: If you are ever threatened with death from anyone, you’ll wish you had protection. And both kids had a chance to avoid the conflict. Jordan should have kept his mouth shut and respected the request to turn down the music, and Trayvon could have kept walking. They decided not to. Now they are dead. Maybe they should worry about folks with concealed carry permits before kids spout off or throw the first punch. They’d be alive today. Grow up and learn respect no matter what you think of the other guy.

— Bill Cullen

Admitting the Problem

I read with interest “Unfiltered” [Cover Story, Arpad Lovas, Jan. 29]. I recalled the time in Jacksonville when no one talked about the problem because, according to the powers that be, we had no problem. Seemingly, the homeless problem ended in Charleston, S.C., where a Democratic mayor was addressing it. However, the whole nation was discussing possible solutions. The story was that Gov. Reubin Askew, then a civil rights-minded leader, gathered his aides together after a national governors meeting and inquired what was this “homeless problem” the governors were talking about. He was assured that Florida was not having the problem.

I became executive director of Travelers Aid Society of Jacksonville in November 1999. I learned immediately that indeed we had a huge homeless problem. Our agency sounded the alarm, but we were quickly ignored. The problem kept increasing, and with our very limited resources, we were bailing out a sinking ship. And then, lo and behold, federal money became available. All of a sudden, mental health clinics and agencies were requesting our statistics! Indeed we did have a problem, and we needed that money. Travelers Aid Society did not share in the windfall.

The homeless problem has continued to worsen, especially in the most recent years. I saw the problem eyeball-to-eyeball from 1979 through the mid-1990s, when our United Way funding was cut. Just prior to that year, United Way was steering Travelers Aid Society to be the lead agency for a homeless shelter. But again federal money appeared and the Sulzbacher Center became a reality. Travelers Aid Society was not needed. We applauded the reality of the Sulzbacher and I have volunteered my services there.

Yes, the homeless problem continues to be a blight on our community. And I rub shoulders with the homeless working as a volunteer at Downtown Ecumenical Services Council, the agency serving the homeless, whenever I can. After providing them with food, clothing or financial assistance, I try to remember to wish them “God bless you,” because God knows they need it.

— Bill Dunford