- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Animal-rights activists yesterday gave about 30 paint-stained fur coats to homeless people in the District, saying they doubt the furs will encourage would-be robbers to target the homeless.
"We've thought about [the possibility of violence]," said Jay Kelly, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). "The bottom line is fur is so devalued these days. We really didn't feel that it's a serious concern."
One of the homeless recipients Howard Troha, 52 said his coat would be a boon during the winter, even if others try to take it from him.
"You gotta learn survival," said Mr. Troha, a small, whiskered man out of prison after 20 years. "That's what life is. Other people want what you want."
PETA activists distributed the fur coats yesterday at Constitution Avenue and Third Street NW.
The message PETA wanted to send through the giveaway was that the homeless are the only people who have an excuse to wear fur because they have no choice in what they wear. All the coats given away had been donated by people who had "moved on to kinder, gentler garments," said Mr. Kelly.
No one really wants fur anymore anyway, he said. "The [fur] industry's on its last legs."
However, according to the Fur Information Council of America, retail fur sales in the United States in 2000 (the most recent year data are available) increased more than 21 percent over the previous year.
The industry raked in more than $1.69 billion in sales, with prices ranging from a few dollars for fur-trimmed garments to several thousand dollars for full-length coats.
Mr. Kelly said anyone can get a fur coat at a thrift store for a few dollars.
One homeless woman, holding a black coat, apparently agreed with him. "These coats ain't worth 2 cents," she said, adding: "In Chinese money."
Many of the homeless snatched up the coats.
Tia Jenkins, 19, who is in transitional housing, said her coat might be stolen if she were in a shelter, but being mugged is out of the question. "That's not going to happen to me," she said. "I have self-defenses if necessary."
Cynthia S., who declined to give her full last name, has been in the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter for five months. She ended up with a full-length, cream-colored fur.
"I don't feel like it'll cause any damage," she said.
"They're beautiful coats. I can't complain," said Cynthia. "I'm just wondering how the red will come off."
PETA had previously used the coats in anti-fur demonstrations and placed red-paint streaks on the garments to symbolize animal blood.
Cynthia S. said she was grateful for PETA's work, but that she doesn't think it's wrong to kill animals for fur.
"God made the animals for us to use. He put us over the animals," she said.
She said she has a job and is trying to get back on her feet.
"It's hard, but it's what you make of it," she said. "It's a steppingstone to making my life better."

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