RE CHRISTINE Flowers' recent op-ed on involuntary welfare inspections in SanDiego:

No one, not even the poor and disabled, should be required to permit an agent from the DA's office to snoop around their house in order to receive help from the government. Especially if there's no suspicion of wrongdoing.

"People who deserve assistance have nothing to fear about that knock on the door," Flowers wrote. But there are already plenty of checks to ensure that applicants for critical benefits such as medical assistance, food stamps or cash assistance are truly needy.

Applicants must provide a copy of their lease, their bank statement, pay stubs and utility bills. If they've lost their job recently, they generally must provide a letter from their employer explaining why. They must prove that their children have all their shots and haven't missed too many days at school. If they have a disability, they must authorize the welfare office to talk to their doctors and look at their records.

And if a caseworker is suspicious, a fraud investigator will come to the house. The investigator may talk to neighbors and landlords to find out more about the applicant.

People turn to the government for help for many reasons. Some lose their jobs and run through unemployment compensation before finding a new job. Others become sick or disabled and are temporarily unable to work. Some flee domestic violence and receive help as they put their lives back together.

The author apparently believes that people should be further degraded by giving up their last thread of privacy by being forced to allow government agents to pick through their closets and drawers - even when there is no reason to suspect that they have been anything but truthful.

Michael R. Froehlich

& Louise Hayes

Community Legal Services