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Hard times hurting city's middle class

Readers' Letters
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Fairview resident Mandy Thrush (center) says she started visiting  pantries when her food stamps ran out toward the end of the month. With two young children at home and a stepson part of the time, Thrush is grateful for the frozen green beans, corn and chicken pieces supplied by Snow Cap food pantry in Gresham.

The story 'Why are Oregon's children so hungry?' (Sept. 8) rings true for me, though I know we all draw too much from our own experiences when trying to interpret social trends in the whole state.

A lot of us families have made a steady slide from middle to lower class while trying very hard not to, so not adjusting to what bad shape we're in and asking for help as soon as we could.

When I had my first child, we were making almost $200,000 a year in the dot-com boom. We didn't expect it to last, so we bought a house that cost way less than the banks urged us to, and put lots of money down on it. We didn't buy a car until we could pay cash for it. We had lots of money and thought it was safe for me to be a stay-at-home mom while the kids were little, the only really spendthrift decision we made.

Fast-forward 12 years to an economy much worse than we expected. We've spent tens of thousands of dollars on COBRA health insurance (thankfully, without any major medical crises) in between jobs, and have depleted our savings (including retirement) to do so. The mortgage is fine, it's the health insurance that kills us.

We just had GREAT job news for this year in that I just got a $20,000 a year half-time job with health insurance for me and we can buy it for $350 a month or so for my husband. Last summer, staring bankruptcy in the face, we got the kids on Oregon Healthy Kids (OHP health insurance).

We still have my husband's unemployment coming in while he keeps looking, so we are not heading to the food bank yet. I feel really thankful and lucky that we dodged the bullet of returning to COBRA payments - this time we probably would have gone uninsured.

People like those described in (Peter Korn's) story, who are so compassionate and helpful with stressed-out, depressed people, are some of our state's greatest treasures. You bring out the best in other people and make the world a much better place. Bless you.

Julie Wright

Southeast Portland

Mercy Corps must step up local efforts

This doesn't make too much sense, as Portland has so many nonprofits dedicated to humanitarian interest in third-world countries (Why are Oregon's children so hungry?, Sept. 8). We gave ecstatically to Haiti and Somalia, so things at home must be OK.

Walking across the Burnside Bridge, you can see Mercy Corps' new palace with its many Mercedes and BMWs. They must be doing well. And you can't walk on Portland's sidewalks without someone from Save the Children sticking a clipboard in your face.

What children are they feeding, Somalian or Haitian?

Dan Maher

Southeast Portland

Employed should give a little extra

Reading Peter Korn's front-page article, 'Why are Oregon's children so hungry?' (Sept. 8), just tore at my heart. How could this possibly be happening in the 'land of the plenty?' It's totally unacceptable.

With poverty at 15.1 percent (a 52-year peak), the highest since 1993 with 2.6 million more people moving into poverty and income sliding to 1996 levels, this indicates 'truly a lost decade.'

For those of us who are blessed to be working, it is a call to arms to step up and help our fellow citizens who are experiencing incredible hardship. If you are a member of a church and your church provides food to the needy through a food pantry, you can help by giving generously financially to get the food to the families who really need it, including those in your own congregation.

You can also give to such organizations as the Oregon Food Bank, SnowCap, Portland Rescue Mission, Union Gospel Mission and others who are struggling right now to meet the big increase in need.

Essentially, the greatest need is for jobs - jobs that pay enough to support your family. Unfortunately, I don't expect much from the president, who seems to be long on talk and short on results needed to pay the bills and put food on our tables.

Poverty would be even higher if so many 25- to 34-year-olds weren't living at home with their parents. Hard times are forcing people to 'double up' by living either with their parents or other family members; the number of households doubling up grew from 19.7 million in 2007 to 21.8 million in the spring of 2011.

The greatest gift anyone could give is the gift of hope. Right now, every dollar counts in meeting that need.

Louis H. Bowerman

Southeast Portland

Hungry children excuse to raise taxes

I get hungry every day. Then I eat lunch.

This is typical liberal tripe lobbying for more welfare (Why are Oregon's children so hungry?, Sept. 8). As usual, the solution is we (the taxpayers) need to pay more taxes … for the children.

A better solution is to have a growing economy where wealth is created and expanding. But with one party-run state hell bent on promoting bike paths, useless bridges for the MAX, sustainability and green jobs, no one should be holding their breath waiting for better times.

Geoff Rode

Southeast Portland

Oregon needs to fight poverty

Thank you, Peter Korn, for an excellent article (Why are Oregon's children so hungry?, Sept. 8).

We know poverty is a leading factor in children's oral health and overall health. Come on, Oregon, we can do better than this.

Charlie LaTourette

Executive director, Dental Foundation of Oregon

Wilsonville

Don't have kids you can't afford

We're ignoring the most basic truth in the equation: Oregon's children are hungry because people who can't afford to feed kids are having kids unchecked (Why are Oregon's children so hungry?, Sept. 8).

People contemplating having kids need to have a safety net in place BEFORE getting pregnant. Social services are not a safety net! Do not have them if you can't afford to feed them AND set aside money for tough times. Period.

In fact, I suggest that people on welfare (in any of its many forms) should be required to take the Depo shot so they can't get pregnant while I (the public) am paying their bills. If I have to support them, I should have a say in their choice to continue to procreate. Once they can support a family, they are welcome to have all the kids they want.

Mace Winter

Southeast Portland

Gardens will help feed children

Gardening is an important way to get more good food to our children (Why are Oregon's children so hungry?, Sept. 8).

SnowCap operates a community garden with a waiting list. We also teach gardening classes for people who have containers or land they can cultivate. One limitation to this gardening effort is that landlords often resist having their landscape dug up for gardens. Since most of our families are renters this really limits their gardening options.

Judy Alley

Southeast Portland