April 23, 2013

Letters to the editor: Let young, healthy people earn their rent

Having tried my hardest to not respond to the lead story ("Hundreds of Mainers line up for housing assistance"), with pictures, in the Local and State news section of your April 11 edition, I am caving. What is wrong with this picture?

click image to enlarge

Kareem Alashammari was first in line in Portland on April 10 when housing officials began letting people in to add their names to a regional waiting list for federal housing subsidies. A reader calls for closer vetting of applications for subsidized housing.

2013 File Photo/John Patriquin

The first, second and fourth people in line for Section 8 housing, having "bravely" stood there all night, are obviously able-bodied men between 20 and 30 years old.

The third in line has physical problems and is on Social Security (whose Social Security number did he get at 14, fresh from Iraq?).

One of the other applicants mentioned took time off from a job to apply for assistance, to try to get ahead of outlay being more than income, to get a fresh start, off the dole.  

"Start" being the operative word. Have the first, second and fourth people in line "started"?

Standing in the cold all night must beat cleaning closed offices, restaurants and schools.

It must be easier than flipping hamburgers, way easier than standing on corners, holding signs during the day, just asking for change or, as my recent hospital stay proved, much better than sitting all night long watching a patient sleep as a companion.

I, like many folks having retired after a lifetime of working, understand that some people need to receive a hand up due to unforeseen circumstances, divorce, illness, layoffs and sometimes just needing to have a breather.

But the young, the healthy and the obviously sturdy can pound the pavement in daylight, instead of standing in line all night for benefits they have yet to earn.

Section 8 was created to help, not to enable.

Wake up, Maine!

Jan Blanchard
Portland

Congress Square deserves 'coordinated design effort'

Congress Square is one of the most important physical spaces in downtown.

It includes the major pedestrian and vehicular intersection of downtown Portland, several buildings of outstanding architectural character (including the Portland Museum of Art and the Hay Building), major cultural venues (State Theatre, two museums and the Arts District) and a park that shows occasional signs of vigor.

But too often Congress Square is considered in fragments and defined by its problems: chaotic and scary traffic, drab building facades and sides, and the park, which is an "attractive nuisance" for off-putting behavior.

So much change will be affecting the square in the near future that now is the time to think of remaking the entire public space as a cultural crossroad and a center of downtown activity.

Under consideration are changes to the Free Street traffic pattern, making traffic two-way on High Street, renovation of the Eastland Hotel, possible redesign of the park and a possible addition to the hotel.

All these proposals reflect the efforts of many Portlanders frustrated with current aspects of the square.

The whole of Congress Square can be looked at as one space rather than as a collection of small problems requiring piecemeal solutions. Such a central and potentially vibrant place with so many likely changes deserves a comprehensive, coordinated design effort.

The Portland Society for Architecture stands ready to play a part in this revisioning of the entirety of Congress Square and its approaches.

We believe other major players are ready to contribute as well in order both to avoid a too-narrow focus on minor parts of the square and to capture the full potential of this vital city location.

(Continued on page 2)

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