April 20, 2011

Letters to the editor, April 20, 2011
Preble Street doing its job well

I was alarmed and dismayed to read about Portland Police Chief James Craig's suggestion that Preble Street Resource Center should regularly supply the police with lists of those receiving help, regardless of whether they have committed any crimes ("Portland police, shelter clash on stop-crime tactics," April 6).

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Preble Street Resource Center is doing its job without harming law enforcement interests, readers say.

2011 Press Herald file

If the chief needs more officers in order to address criminal activity, he should set about making that happen. But he should not be allowed to shortcut the process by fishing through lists of innocent people just because they happen to be poor.

My family, like so many others in the Portland area, provides financial support to Preble Street each year because we know that it is the one place that our desperately hungry and sick neighbors can go when all else fails.

If the chief really believes that Preble Street's low-barrier philosophy is ineffective, he should sit down and talk with some of the thousands of Preble Street clients who over the years have found the foothold they needed to reclaim their lives.

Greg Payne

Portland

Homeless Voices for Justice members are concerned about the recent article regarding the Portland Police Department and Preble Street.

We have all been homeless, and have all spent countless hours at Preble Street. When you are homeless, you're so ashamed; sometimes you don't even want your family to know you are at the shelter because of the stereotypes associated with homelessness.

The confidentiality of the space is critical to us feeling safe, and feels like the only thing protecting the scraps of dignity we have left. Preble Street is a refuge for people in desperate need -- a safe, warm place to take a shower, receive mail, use a phone to call about a job or an apartment and build ourselves back up from the lowest point of our lives.

To us, low barrier means that if I'm hungry, I can eat at the soup kitchen. If it's raining, I can walk into the clothing closet and find dry clothes.

Of course we all want Preble Street and the neighborhood to be safe. Those of us accessing services share a mutual responsibility to maintain a safe space. Social workers provide casework and constant outreach. We talk to the community policing officer when he stops by at breakfast or comes by the courtyard on his bike.

In a time when anti-poverty sentiment is not only perpetuated but accepted as truth on which to base policy, the last thing our communities need is another reason to splinter "us" from "them." We all have the same goal of a safe and healthy neighborhood, and we can't do it without one another.

Marcia Frank and Thomas Ptacek

Homeless Voices for Justice, Portland Chapter

Portland

I'm writing as Preble Street's board president to refute recent public statements made concerning safety issues at our facilities. I also want to assure our neighbors in the community that we take seriously our responsibility to maintain safe, welcoming and professional facilities and programs.

Statements by public officials would lead one to believe there is no interaction between police and Preble Street staff, and that Preble Street tries to keep police away from its facilities.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our organization regularly requests, and sometimes pays for, police details at our facilities. We always encourage and invite officers to come to our facilities.

In matters of public safety, Preble Street staff regularly initiate police calls. Why would our staff do that if they are not concerned about client and staff safety?

We also take issue with criticism of our low-barrier model. Our entire organization stands behind that model wholeheartedly.

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