To the editor of THE EAGLE:

The Dec. 10 article about Pittsfield's efforts to prepare for homelessness this winter, and Charles M. Blow's inspirational op-ed that same day about Nelson Mandela persevering to change set ways of thinking, have lead me to write this letter.

To solve homelessness, we must reach people who are not homeless in large enough numbers to make a difference in the community. Waiting makes problems worse.

The four key ingredients of a successful program are:

1. Complete access: A central location; no one is turned away -- if you're alive, you're eligible.

2. Comprehensive services: No matter the problem, we find a solution, usually working closely with existing service providers and businesses in the community.

3. Client responsibility: No free lunch -- what we do for you must be paid for by you doing for yourself. Look for a job, go to school, budget your money, accept help for drug or alcohol abuse.

4. Case review: A weekly meeting of case managers to help each other develop resources and solutions for difficult problems.

Over time, Pittsfield should be able to reduce its shelter bed requirements to less than 10 beds per night. The cost of such a program would be about $150,000 per year. You can read more at www.ronnowpoetry.com/homeless.html

BOB RONNOW

Williamstown