Down And Out - but Determined

Does a mentally disturbed woman have the right to be homeless?

Joyce Brown, a 40-year-old former stenographer, has lived for the past year on a Manhattan sidewalk. Crouched over a hot-air vent, she fended off winter sleet. Panhandling, she dined for $7 a day on juice, a quart of milk, a pint of ice cream and a chicken cutlet from the corner delicatessen. She relieved herself in the gutter, huddled beneath a tattered coat. Crazy or not, Brown claims to know what she wants. "Some people are street people," she says. "That's the life they choose to lead."

But when New York City Mayor Edward Koch ordered social workers to begin rounding...