THOSE of us with a roof over our heads have the luxury of referring to our dealings with the homeless as a "quality of life" issue, though the life whose quality we care about is our own.

Having to confront homelessness, especially when the homeless confront us - for attention, or money - is not pleasant. Some encounters are an affront to city dwellers and visitors to the city. Councilman Frank DiCicco has been hearing a lot from the latter, and wants to put stronger curbs on aggressive and belligerent behavior by allowing police greater powers in arresting people, sidestepping a process that now involves social workers. After protest from homeless advocates, he has rightly amended this bill to specifically target aggressive panhandlers.

This is a tough issue, and while we understand the need to limit threatening public behavior, we don't like limiting public freedoms. Our main concern: homelessness is not a "lifestyle" problem, but a problem of our inability or refusal to wrestle with bigger complex problems like the lack of a systemic safety net for the mentally ill. We hope that DiCicco will consider doing more than a one-bill solution and also hold hearings that might give us all a better look at the larger failures of mental- health care in the 21st century.