November 22, 2012

Letters to the editor: Homeless deserve attention, compassion

In this upcoming season of Thanksgiving, I was dismayed to read two items.

click image to enlarge

Nick Nicholson with Homeless Voices for Justice stands near pads homeless people sleep on in shelters during a vigil Monday at Portland City Hall.

2012 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

One is that more than 49 million Americans live below the poverty level ("New formula has poverty level rising above 49 million," Nov. 15).

The second was the news story that Portland business owners and the Portland Community Chamber object to more services and shelters for the homeless ("Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle," Nov. 16). It would appear that they only want Portland to be a destination for those with deep pockets.

Homelessness is a big problem, especially if you are one of the millions of homeless. There are a multitude of reasons. A sudden change in economic status, as many families live one paycheck away from being homeless. Mental and physical illness, including the disease of addiction, often leave an individual without food or shelter.

It may be true that some come to Portland because there are few or no services where they are from. It is not a gated community, although some people would have it that way. Rather than just a playground for those with money to burn, don't we want Portland to be a welcoming and all-inclusive city?

Do we need another high-end eatery where few of us can afford to dine? Do we need another luxury hotel when the vacancy rate is actually high? Do we need more expensive condos that few local residents can afford? Or can we channel our time, energy and money into solving the problem of hunger and homelessness?

So instead of being less than compassionate to those less fortunate, can we be giving and thankful?

Skip Brushaber


This letter is in response to the memo from Chris O'Neil to Portland city officials ("Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle," Nov. 16).

In his memo, he says the city of Portland should rethink opening more shelters for the homeless, as they are detrimental to the business climate of the city.

I must disagree. O'Neil relegates the homeless to the heap of human trash. Hmmm, is that what Jesus would do? Not only is the attitude not Christian, it's simply not true.

Most homeless find themselves so for a variety of reasons: loss of a job, a fire, an abusive situation, etc., etc. A person making minimum wage must work two jobs in order to pay rent in Portland.

Maybe the business community would be better served if they considered the homeless community as an untapped resource. There are many job seekers there.

I would suggest that Mr. O'Neil visit the Preble Street Resource Center and speak to Mark Swann. He needs to be educated about the homeless.

Jocelyn Canning


Roberts' health care vote helped re-elect Obama

Sen.-elect Angus King gave credit in jest to Karl Rove for rejuvenating his campaign for the Senate.

In a similar vein, without the tongue in cheek, much credit for the re-election of Barack Obama must be given to Chief Justice John Roberts.

His critical swing vote upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare effectively neutralized this issue and weakened arguments against Obama's re-election.

William "Skip" Button


Public investment has both tangible, intangible payoff

In a letter published Nov. 7 ("Is rail service a good investment?"), Jim Anderson calculates that it would take 48 years to recoup the $38.3 million spent to extend Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland to Brunswick from ticket revenue, and he concludes that the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

Calculating the return on investment in public infrastructure is tricky.

Take the new Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Fore River. Let's see, $65 million divided by 22,000 vehicles per day, times 365 days per year, times how much toll per vehicle? Oops, there's no toll on the bridge -- looks like we'll never recoup that investment.

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