Failure to address homelessness a costly mistake: Letters

Portsmouth Herald

Failure to address homelessness a costly mistake

March 28 − To the Editor:

One of the most controversial parts of the homelessness crisis is the costs associated with operating a shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Most of us think that this would require more funding which is not true. The average costs associated with a person struggling with homelessness is between $30,000-$50,000 with more complex cases reaching $100,000 per person. These numbers include policing, encampment sweeping, emergency room visits, incarceration costs for being homeless, etc.

Taxpayers are already paying more per year to chase around our homeless residents and make it functionally illegal to be homeless than they would pay to operate a shelter (or shelters). Well-operated shelters cost taxpayers roughly $20,000 per person to operate per year. If you’re a fiscal conservative and oppose a shelter on fiscal grounds, you’re unintentionally arguing to spend more taxpayer money to ensure the crisis gets worse instead of operating a well-run shelter (or shelters) and save money in the process.

So, doing nothing is the most expensive (and more importantly) the least humane and least effective way to respond in this crisis.

Adding a shelter or shelters in Strafford County would make all outcomes better for those experiencing homelessness and for the taxpayers and save money, not spend more money.

Ultimately, building affordable housing is needed but until that gets built in numbers required to house 1200+ (and rising) folks experiencing homelessness, sheltering is the most humane response to humans in need, delivers better outcomes for the folks served and the community at large and has the benefit of saving money.

We have the ability to solve this crisis, what we seem to lack is the political will. Contact your local, county, and state elected officials and demand solutions. The only way for your elected officials (and mine) to move forward toward solutions on this issue is for the people who vote for them to make it clear that doing nothing is unacceptable.

Jim Ricker


OPINION: Doing nothing is the most expensive (and more importantly) the least humane and least effective way to respond to homelessness.

The dark side of Biden's economy and 401(k)s

March 31 − To the Editor:

D. Allan Kerr praised the effect of Bidenomics on the stock market, which has increased values in 401(k) investment accounts. In my opinion, Mr. Kerr’s column reflects the elitist attitude which is pervasive in the Democratic Party. The wealthy and those least affected by inflationary pressures benefit from investing in the stock market.

Fidelity, Bloomberg, Vanguard, Bank of America, CNN, USA Today, and numerous other sources report that because Americans have dangerously increased personal credit card balances and drained their savings to meet the inflated high costs of daily necessities under the Biden Administration,  there has been a rise as much as 27% (depending on the source) of Americans draining their 401(k) accounts to cover the costs of housing and medical bills. Hardship withdrawals from retirement accounts tripled.

“The growing reliance of 401(k) plans as a source for urgent cash is further evidence of consumer financial stress. Despite high GDP and low unemployment, Americans are clearly facing a cash crunch and struggling to pay their bills.” (CNN)

Furthermore, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Baby Boomers, men, and non-Hispanic white or Asian individuals are the most likely to own retirement accounts. Age, sex, race, and ethnicity is key to who pays into and holds retirement accounts.

It is true that the rate of inflation has slowed, however, costs remain at inflated levels. There has been no decrease in actual costs under Biden. The dark side of the Biden economy and increase in the stock market allows only the elite who are unaffected by the inflated costs of living to benefit from the current stock market.

Cheryl Russell


To save our democracy and institutions vote Joe Biden in November

March 29 −To the Editor:

When I talk to people with whom I am in contact about the election and my concerns for our democracy, I find that often they are concerned about the economy and have not considered the threat to our democracy that to me is the heart of this election. I realize it's because I have a home and money to buy food and am not sending kids to college.

These people are concerned with two things that affect their daily lives - housing prices and food prices. Unfortunately the good economic recovery has not yet affected these issues - through no fault of this administration which has been trying to do what it can with a very divided Congress.

As a nation, we have fallen woefully behind in building adequate housing for the middle class, let alone those of more limited means.  This means that as young people are ready to leave home and begin their adult lives and careers, they can’t find a place to rent or buy that is within reason - not even when they have two incomes. When mortgage rates went up dramatically as we struggled to curb inflation, it exacerbated the issue.

Here in Portsmouth we have been talking about work force housing since at least 2005.  When I was part of the many citizen groups who wrote the 10-year plan in 2015,  I found we had essentially repeated the 2005 plan.  And we are still just talking in 2024.

As for food - the cost of groceries has risen 25% since February 2020 and the start of COVID. That’s right, 25% - while inflation rose 9%.  People are blaming this on the president, unfortunately, and he had nothing to do with it. As supply issues abated and inflation fell to 3%, grocery prices have not come down. This is what Americans complain about when they say the economy is not improving. Corporate greed is a major factor in this issue.

In the food industry, continual consolidation has led to keeping prices where they are.  This is simply corporate greed.  And the food industry is not the only one going after mergers to eliminate competition and keep prices high. 

Take a look at the health care industry - from hospitals to insurance to drugs.  All the mergers are focused on reducing competition and keeping prices high.  We pay more for drugs than any other country.

No administration can correct these issues alone. Government does have a role to play along with other economic power brokers and unions.

However the MAGA party (formerly Republicans) want to lower taxes on corporations and prevent any oversight that that might get in their way of corporate profits  - like workplace safety, for example, or unions or quality improvements  or lowering emissions.  We can work against this merge and gouge corporate climate and restore competition while keeping good manufacturing jobs here in this country.  Biden is trying and has had some successes.

We know where corporate greed supported by the former administration got us - a widening gap between workers and owner/managers. The middle class went downhill and that administration added more to the national debt than any other administration in history. It also increased child poverty and lowered life expectancy. We are now behind the rest of the world democracies in health care outcomes on all levels and we pay more for this care than any other country.

My hope is that people will read widely, look more deeply into the issues and join me in preserving democracy, the middle class, public education, healthy competition and our planet - all of which are in danger from the far right.  We can make a difference and we can do better in making sure everyone has the opportunity to prosper, not just billionaires.

We have a choice between a statesman, Joe Biden, who has dedicated his entire working life to this country and its people, and a fraudster who is only interested in his own power and prestige - and who will turn our country into a dictatorship with the help of his chosen oligarchy.

Please help me get out the vote in November for our president and our Constitution and for prosperity for everyone.

Linda Cunningham


Kelly Ayotte doth protest too much, methinks

March 27 -- To the Editor:

In her recent column in the Portsmouth Herald, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte's words reminded me of the play Hamlet where Queen Gertrude states "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Ms. Ayotte, in her attempt to declare her support of in vitro fertilization (IVF) twists herself in knots trying to declare her support for IVF while at the same time trying to distance herself from the recent Alabama IVF case. Unfortunately, Ms. Ayotte never addresses the key question regarding IVF.  Does Ms. Ayotte believe that life begins at conception which is the basis for the Alabama case?  If she believes that life begins at conception her statement regarding her support for IVF is not consistent with her true beliefs. 

IVF involves the fertilization of multiple eggs resulting in the creation of a number of embryos. Since not all the embryos are actually implanted, the unused embryos are either kept frozen for future use or eventually destroyed.  The Alabama Court decision declared that embryos were in fact "extra uterine children" and that destroying those unused embryos was committing a wrongful death.  As such, anyone who believes that life begins at conception cannot at the same time state that they support IVF, since those unused embryos must be either kept frozen forever  which is not consistent with life, or, eventually destroyed.

Ms. Ayotte's record would indicate that she believes that life begins at conception.  In 2010, then Sen. Ayotte called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and in 2014, she led a group of 33 Republican senators demanding a vote on a national abortion ban. A national abortion ban would make abortion at any stage of gestation illegal thus codifying in law that life begins at conception.. 

Ms. Ayotte cannot have it both ways. Either she believes that life begins at conception and that unused embryos are "extrauterine children" that can never be destroyed and must be kept "alive" in a frozen state forever, or she does not.  Her attempts to dance around the issue and obfuscate simply demonstrates how concerned she is about her previous record on abortion and the fallout from the Alabama ruling on her political future. However, she can quickly end this debate by clearly and unambiguously stating that she does not believe that life begins at conception and that embryos are not "extra uterine children." Only then can she legitimately claim that she truly supports IVF. Otherwise, her words are meaningless. 

Rich DiPentima