Homeless Voices for Justice was devastated to read of yet another death in the homeless community. James Stewart’s death, reported Sept. 2, brings the count to eight this summer alone. Can you imagine if eight members of another community in Portland had passed in two months? What would the response be then?

We are angered about The Portland Press Herald’s ongoing use of the term “transient.” Jim was not transient, nor were others who died this summer. They were beloved neighbors and friends well known to those of us in the homeless community, as well to the business owners and patrons, coffee shop baristas, grocery store employees, taxi drivers, and other community members that we all interact with every day.

At our memorial services, we are often surprised by the strong community response for those who have died. Take the example of a man who passed his days at the Hannaford on Forest Avenue, ate his meals at the soup kitchen and spent his nights either at the shelter or in his modest apartment. His death was mourned by many, and one can find a plaque honoring his memory above the bench he loved to warm at Hannaford. A transient he was not.

Labeling someone like Jim, an established community member, as transient perpetuates the misconception that people flock to Portland from “away” for services. Studies and statistics prove otherwise.

We urge you to use more accurate language when referring to men and women who were born in greater Portland, attended Portland schools, worked side-by-side with friends and neighbors, and at the time of their death were staying at a shelter.

Transients they are not. The difference between “us” and “them” is that “they” didn’t have the dignity of a bed and a home in which to die.

Marcia Frank

Homeless Voices for Justice



New health care law has benefits for Mainers


Campaigning for the 2010 election has begun in earnest. A central campaign issue will undoubtedly be the Patient Protection and Affordibility Act. What does ACA mean for Maine’s children?

As of Sept. 23, insurance companies cannot exclude children with a pre-existing condition such as a birth defect from coverage. Insurance companies will not be allowed to charge co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles for recommended preventive services such as immunization and well child care.

When parents have health insurance, children until age 26 can remain on their parent’s policy. This provision will help roughly 3,300 Mainers. Insurance companies are also prohibited from dropping coverage when Mainers get sick because of an error in paper work protecting the approximately 69,000 Mainers who have purchased insurance in the individual market.

Insurance companies can no longer place lifetime coverage limits ensuring that 729,000 Mainers with private insurance will never have to worry about coverage running out and will no longer experience the fear of catastrophic out of pocket costs required by children with lifetime medical needs.

The ACA is investing significant dollars in training primary care clinicians (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) who can provide services to Mainers living in under served areas. As a pediatrician and past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I am shocked by the misinformation and disortions about the ACA that have understandably confused the public.

The ACA is not a governmental take over of medicine. It is a meaningful start for health care reform especially for Maine’s children and their parents.

Let us work together to see the ACA as a beginning which will ultimately remove once and for all the financial barriers to health care for all Mainers when care is needed.

Joel J. Alpert, M.D.



Senate wrong to maintain ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’


We like to believe that as human beings we learn from past mistakes, that we right past wrongs, that we move forward instead of backward.

But that is not what happened last week in the U.S. Senate, where Republican senators along with a few Democrats continued to endorse discrimination against the gay and lesbian members of the Armed Forces.

Why haven’t we, as supposedly the most free and enlightened nation in the world, learned that it is wrong to discriminate against any of our citizens.

As Americans we pride ourselves on the fact that we no longer discriminate against African Americans, Native Americans or women unless, of course, they are gay.

In that case we are allowed, even mandated, to discriminate against men and women equally no matter the color of their skin or how much they love their country. Then it seems that all bets are off and the freedoms that we hold so dear as American citizens no longer matter.

Learn from our past mistakes? Right what is so clearly wrong?

Apparently not yet; but there will come a day in the not so distant future when our government will look back and apologize to our gay fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters for treating them like they are less than equal.

Mary Mitchell Friedman

Cape Elizabeth


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