The situation in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood is tragic. Neighbors are understandably frustrated, even frightened. Staff Writer Randy Billings’ recent article about Bayside (May 6) did a great job of explaining how many people feel. It illustrated the complicated nature of balancing the needs of people seeking services with the needs of other residents and business owners.

The article contained a variety of voices, including those of people experiencing addiction. I hope to add a voice of recovery and compassion to all sides of the situation. My recovery brought me from addiction and prison to forming true relationships with family and friends and achieving personal and professional milestones I never dreamed possible. I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the article’s language and images and discuss the overarching issues of poverty and lack of affordable housing.

The article’s headline is “Bayside at rock bottom: Portland neighborhood is under siege.” The word “siege” is defined as “a military blockade … to compel surrender, or a persistent or serious attack.” A widely accepted connotation of “siege” involves war. The result of using a war reference to describe the situation in Bayside creates further division.

Sensational headlines often come at an expense. It is possible to candidly express the dire reality without potentially leading readers, even unintentionally, to believe that people suffering from poverty, addiction or mental illness are an enemy. “Bayside faces addiction, neighbors seek relief” or “Business owners and residents concerned by drug use and crime” are some ideas that provide accurate titles without further marginalizing already vulnerable people.

Regarding language, society continues to evolve away from defining people as “addicts,” “alcoholics” or other highly stigmatized terms. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t use that language.

I am optimistic that the Portland Press Herald will join the many media outlets that have already stopped using stigmatizing language to describe substance use disorder and other mental health conditions. “A person with a substance use disorder” or, simply, “people facing addiction” are alternatives. To emphasize this point, I will share that I have asthma, but no one defines me as an “asthmatic,” only as an “addict,” and it stings. I do not accept that my identity should be defined by terms such as “addict,” “felon,” “junkie” or “ex” anything. We are human beings. Placing the person before the condition is the fundamental principle.

As for the images that accompany the article, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, candidly showing the situation is a fundamental responsibility of journalists. The photos are undeniably raw and bring reality home. I do not advocate censorship or underestimate the value of dramatic imagery. On the other hand, repeatedly showing fighting by people who are undoubtedly suffering, their use of drugs or their being arrested feels both sensational and insensitive. The people depicted are actively experiencing extreme poverty, trauma, addiction and, often, mental health crises. I don’t have an exact answer on how to address this beyond attempting to balance the journalistic interest in fully documenting a story with recognizing the humanity of the people involved.

Finally, the larger issues involve poverty, lack of affordable housing and the lack of comprehensive and accessible services. Many of these concerns were well covered by the Portland Press Herald Editorial Board in “Our View: Bayside’s woes are bigger than one neighborhood” (May 8).

Another concern is gentrification. My family has lived in Portland for four generations. Many people I grew up with in Portland are no longer able to afford to live there. While it’s great for Portland to be a “foodie and artsy” destination, it troubles me that it comes at the expense of people who have called it home for years.

I am currently living in Washington state and needed to find an Airbnb in Portland recently. I found one listed in Bayside that warned that the neighborhood was “still transitioning.” This troubled me because my interpretation of the term “transitioning,” in neighborhoods undergoing gentrification, is essentially that “we haven’t quite gotten rid of all the low-income people yet, but we are actively working on it.”

Our progress should be measured not by how we treat our affluent, but by how we treat our most vulnerable.