Home Columns Letters to the Editor, 11.17.21

Letters to the Editor, 11.17.21

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It’s No Accident 

To the Editor:

Thanks to Ron Merkin for his article “Homeless in Central Vermont (The Bridge, Nov. 2, 2021)” on some of the individuals who, through forces beyond their control, are reduced to living on our streets. As one of Merkin’s interviewees said, “Scott should stay out with the homeless for a week to see what we’re like.” This should also apply to all of our federal, state (all 50 states), and local officials whose policies, or lack of them, have deliberately made homelessness such a problem in the United States. I would say that a week is too little. It should be a year. 

As someone who has been homeless, although in another life a long time ago, I suspect that if these public officials had to scrape by on the streets with the policies they inflict on the homeless, like kicking them out of hotels as tourist season approaches, the richest nation (or ‘was’ at least) in the world would not have such a vast homeless problem. 

If it were not for public housing, I might be homeless as well. With rents in Montpelier and surrounding towns hovering around $1,000 a month for even a one-bedroom apartment before utilities, and wages here not nearly equal to these costs (again, this is deliberate policy or lack of it), I could not live in Montpelier or most anywhere else around here for that matter. Although I love Montpelier and Vermont, without public housing I probably would have been another casualty of these costs, forced to leave the area and state or possibly back onto the streets. 

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Our national homeless nightmare is no accident. As Bernie Sanders wrote in a Twitter feed in November of 2019, “Homelessness isn’t a crime. It’s a symptom of the greed that is destroying housing in America.” 

Walter Carpenter, Montpelier

Long-term Solutions Needed for Homelessness

To the Editor:

I spent 12 nights sleeping on the Statehouse steps with Brenda Siegel and Josh Lisenby.

None of us know what the future holds. None of us know what a politician will do before they do it, or what will happen with the stock market, or if your person will be there tomorrow, next week, or next year. 

But one thing we should be able to count on is our community: our neighbors, our town, our local farms, our local stores, the nurses and doctors, the people who play their part in keeping us fed, healthy, safe, or help when we are tired or can’t do everything.

Right now only some of us can count on community. Some are excluded; they don’t fit our ideals, our norms, or our pictures in our head. This is not our fault. For years we have been subtly manipulated into excluding, othering, and dehumanizing, because that serves the powerful best. It is our personal responsibility to fight that conditioning.

We are taught that people are homeless because they are flawed. Because they can’t hold a job, or are sick in the head. But the truth about homelessness is that people are homeless because some people would rather have a second house than provide a first house for someone, because we don’t think renters belong in our neighborhoods, because we are selling our homes to the highest bidder, rather than the highest need.

Our country is built on personal responsibility and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But no one working at minimum wage jobs with no benefits is ever going to have that opportunity. There is no responsibility when you are just fighting to survive. 

Right now, we need to extend the general assistance motel program to everyone who is homeless, or unsafe in their home, or is being evicted, no matter the reasons. Then we need to pull up our bootstraps and get to work on long-term solutions. 

Carly Abrams, Montpelier 

Thank You for Gravestone Cleaning

To the Editor:

Thank you for Linda Radtke’s lovely article, “Barb Baird’s Gravestone Cleaning Mission.” What a beautiful, thoughtful way to pay homage to those who went before us. 

Lizabeth Kaplan, Barre

Personalized Teaching Works

To the Editor:

I enjoyed and appreciated Mary Mello’s article on U-32. Obviously, alternative schools are not unique. In Somerville, Massachusetts, for instance, there is a high school that is extremely successful in teaching students who do indeed learn and function differently. It is called “Next Wave / Full Circle,” and is a tight-knit school community for students who have experienced academic setbacks and benefit from a personalized approach to learning. In order to meet the needs of the students, they emphasize: Trusting Relationships, Authentic Learning Experiences, Growth Mindset, and Student Voice and Choice as essential components in their daily work. 

The students graduate with the skill set needed to adapt to challenges and lead meaningful and productive lives. As an educator, I knew one young man who had benefited from such sensitive and individualized instruction. He did not “fit in” to the city’s high school, but the creative teachers here got to know him as a person and they were able to help him discover his interest and innate ability in art, specifically painting. With help from other resources, he is now a student at Massachusetts College of Art. The philosophy here is that “teaching” is a “transitive” verb; if a student you are dealing with is not successfully “learning,” then one is not really teaching.

Stephen F. Cole, M.Ed., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Shop Local to Save the Holidays

To the Editor:

With supply chain disruptions making headlines, some wonder if the holidays will be “ruined” this year. With shipments from China now taking over 70 days to arrive and large corporations spending big bucks to charter their own cargo carriers (and passing those fees on to consumers), the answer to saving the holidays seems obvious. Shop local! Spending your money in your community benefits your Vermont neighbors, and that matters now more than ever.

Seize your opportunity to shop for a locally made gift this season by attending farmers markets and holiday craft fairs and frequenting local shops and eateries. Not only will you find a unique gift for everyone on your list, but you’ll also get to know the people behind the product. 

Morgan Haynes, South Royalton

Time to Tighten the Spigot

To the Editor:

Gov. Phil Scott had been relentlessly “opening the spigot” all summer; now, with cases rising, he is holding that ground. But somewhere between lockdown and abandoning all caution, there are measures that could tighten the spigot, such as limiting the size of certain outdoor activities, requiring masking in certain contexts, and reintroducing social-distancing requirements. 

Leaving it to personal responsibility, as Gov. Scott suggests, is a blind alley. With the Delta variant, risks are similar to the period before vaccines, and people need to know how to navigate them. The vaccines will now most likely save a life, but to prevent the spread, both vaccinations and precautions are needed. A person may think they are acting responsibly, but without official guidance they may well be at risk. What sorts of gatherings are now safe?

Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D., associate vice president for research and innovation and a research professor of population health sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University says: “While outdoor activities were deemed to be generally safe last year, the Delta variant has unfortunately come to burst that bubble. Like the original virus, the Delta variant is also less likely to be transmitted outdoors, but it depends on the circumstances.”

It’s also important to continue to be mindful of maintaining adequate social distance, Lee says. For example, playing sports or exercising outdoors is much less likely to result in the spread of infection compared with a crowded outdoor concert. 

Loosening of the spigots had been connected to the vaccination rate. Now, with the Delta variant and subsequent record numbers of cases, could we not use case counts and hospitalization rates as markers? 

This needs to be presented in detail, and we would say that with the authority of the state behind them, the public, and all sorts of proprietors, will be able to take the safest approach much more easily than if they were acting on their own. So, let’s see that spigot close up a bit, to support all of our personal responsibilities.

Bob and Deborah Messing, Montpelier