We must intelligently solve the homeless problem


I was glad to read of the various city private and public agencies working together to help the homeless. I was homeless once myself in San Francisco - a meal a day thanks to a Catholic mission, Burger King dumpsters and city parks to sleep in. Some don't realize many homeless are not the stereotypical 'lazy, shiftless, want to be there' types.

I tried to give a homeless guy on a Portland streetcar a dollar to help him out. He refused, wanted a job instead. He was pissed at the employment barriers which won't give him a job because he doesn't have a mailing address and a phone. The guy was smart, too - not a druggie or a drunk. Some business is probably missing out on a good employee.

The article 'City homeless agencies weather historic storm' (Jan. 8) quoted Marc Jolin of JOIN saying, as far as he knew, every homeless person who wanted shelter found it during the cold spell. I saw one guy carrying his soggy sleeping bags looking for dry shelter in the snow, a woman on Burnside curled up in a small dry alcove with her few belongings and others hunting for a dry spot.

I hope this fine city and its generous citizens keep intelligently solving the problems of the poor and unlucky who may have made some temporary poor choices. We all have.

Harlan Simantel

Southwest Portland

Second-hand smoke now on every corner

One block from my work, there is a large bar where smokers now crowd outside. Instead of getting zero smoke being in public, I now have to go through their smoke every workday of the year (In the Hot Seat: Erik Vidstrand, Jan. 8).

Multiply that by the thousands of bars all over the state and, as a nonsmoker, I actually prefer it the old way.

Peter Feld

Southwest Portland

Don't drop your butt

Our lungs thank us for the recent ban on smoking in most bars and business establishments, but will the environment thank us (In the Hot Seat: Erik Vidstrand, Jan. 8)? Many of us are under the false impression that cigarette butts are composed of cotton and paper, natural fibers that break down relatively quickly with little environmental harm.

When I recently tried to stop someone from throwing their butt on the ground, they replied, 'It's aerating the soil.' Would the same sentiments be expressed if I opposed a litterer dropping a plastic wrapper filled with cadmium, lead and arsenic on the ground? Those are just some of the harmful components found in a cigarette butt. Cigarette butts improperly disposed of are litter. The chemicals found within them are hazardous. Next time you see someone drop a butt, tell them not to litter. No ifs, ands or butts.

Alison Wallisch

Southeast Portland