Reading “Bayside at rock bottom: Portland neighborhood is under siege” (May 6) raised many emotions for me, but the predominant ones were anger and frustration.

Our country has a habit of pushing those we consider undesirable (the poor, the addicted, the mentally ill, the homeless, immigrants, people of color – it’s a long list) into neighborhoods where we don’t have to witness their existence. These same neighborhoods are often also the first affected by funding cuts to things like food assistance, recovery programs and public health services while we stand by and say nothing. We ignore them, because “it’s not my neighborhood; thus, not my problem” until the problem becomes so big we can’t ignore it anymore.

I agree that there is a problem in Bayside. I agree that many of us don’t feel safe walking through certain parts of the neighborhood. I also believe that the only reason it is getting attention now is the newly increased value of Portland peninsula real estate. The people who do the work of providing needed services have been asking for help for a very long time, and we have not listened.

There is a reason that it has become this bad, and that reason has its home in each of our laps. Because this isn’t just a Portland problem. It isn’t even just a Maine problem. It is a cultural problem, and until that culture changes – until each and every one of us steps up in some way – it isn’t going away. Until it becomes culturally shameful for there to be any person unfed, unclothed, uncared-for or unhoused, this problem will remain. It is high time we stopped calling it someone else’s problem and recognize that it is our problem.

Joie Grandbois


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