As the commission chairs for the Westport Department of Human Services we are writing in support of Woody Klein's Jan. 4 "Out of the Woods" column titled "Shadows of `suburban poor' loom over Westport." As chairmen, we know the Department of Human Services meets with many Westport residents who may appear invisible to others but are in great need.

Director Barbara Butler reports that over 1,200 Westport households receive her department's services beyond simple information and referral. Over 775 senior households are helped with prescription drug and Medicare programs, tax relief, heating assistance, Social Security, housing, transportation, home care and other services and information.

Additionally, 486 adult households have met with department staff seeking help accessing benefit programs such as heating assistance, Medicaid, employment resources, back to school, holiday, after school and camp scholarships and other disability and special needs programs, information and casework services. Referrals come from hospitals, homecare visiting nurse agencies, first responders, schools and concerned family and friends.

The economic recession and the resulting unemployment and underemployment problems, plus the high cost of housing, are the primary reasons residents seek help for basic needs such as emergency food, utility bills and housing assistance. The casework staff meets with residents o help them access community resources, support them through crises and facilitate planning.

As chairs of the Westport Senior Services Commission and the Human Services Commission we appreciate that Woody Klein's column has drawn attention to the issue. Those those who may seem to be invisible are residing in our community and contributing in many ways despite whatever difficulties may cause them to seek help. Westport is a very caring community. Its generosity is evidenced by Westport's volunteerism and participation in civic and community partnerships and by individual and group financial gift giving. We are indeed fortunate to live in a community that acts on its concern for others.

Lynn Goldberg, chairwoman

Human Services Commission

Stan Nayer, chairman

Senior Services Commissioin