Dear Portland Phoenix,

Take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Then think about someone who is struggling to provide or even access services to address their most basic needs like food, water, a place to sleep, and warmth. Then couple that with addiction. The proposed bill #1711: “Resolve, To Save Lives by Establishing a Homeless Opioid Users Service Engagement  (H.O.U.S.E.) Pilot Project within the Department of Health and Human Services” is a necessary response to the homelessness and opioid epidemic occurring in Maine. 

Attending a treatment is not enough for these people. Medicaid expansion might help gain access to treatment but it doesn’t always provide the necessary housing that someone needs to support their safety and sobriety. Addiction recovery is a 24/7 job.

Being homeless is a daily, traumatizing experience. It’s not about lack of motivation. It’s about lack of resources and necessary access to the needed services. We need a governor who understands addiction, mental illness, and the significant gap between supply and demand that is going on in this community for those struggling with homelessness and addiction. This is a social welfare issue and a human rights issue. This pilot project would be a small step toward addressing the basic needs that our community members require to get off the street and into safety, so that they can start working their recovery. We need to hold the hope for these people, because right now the options are slim and hard to access. Let’s create more programs like this H.O.U.S.E. project, so that our community sends the message that everyone deserves a home. 

Rebecca Task

Portland

 

Dear Portland Phoenix,

At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Diane Russell spoke about her proposed amendment to the superdelegate system. She said, “I want to be clear. We did not win this by selling out. We won this by standing up.” 2016 was the first year I attended a convention. I learned how the platform of a party is changed and who gets a voice in that change. That weekend inspired me in many ways to make myself heard, and as candidates are beginning their gubernatorial campaigns for this November I'm reminded again how important political involvement is.

 

As a lesbian, my life has always been political, but Diane's fight to even the playing field within the Democratic Party in 2016 showed me what I needed to do to approach our government system as more than just a voter. I, like Diane, can make my voice heard. If I actually show up. 

 

When I express how involved I am in politics today, I often hear, “I don't like either party,” or “I don't vote because it doesn't make a difference.” I have had my share of issues with the Democratic Party. There are aspects of the party I'm not supportive of, and places I wish we focused more. But by going to local Dems meetings, becoming a delegate and attending conventions, I am now a voice within that party. I can work to guide the party in the direction that I am happy with. I am part of the narrative, instead of grumbling in the margins.

If you don't vote you aren't rebelling, you're surrendering to the will of those who do vote. If you don't involve yourself in the political discourse, you ensure that your voice will never be heard and your opinions never considered. 

Diane Russell, who is currently running for governor, is an example of what we all can do. She didn't know she would grow up to go into politics. She had never used a teleprompter before she was asked to speak at the DNC in 2016. She's from a doublewide trailer in Woodstock, Maine, and she worked in a sandwich shop. But when she saw something she didn't like within the Democratic Party she took the steps to change it.

Diane Russell

Diane Russell

Political parties are living, breathing entities that are always changing, and if you walk away from the discussion you won't be part of the change. Some of us, like myself, may have quieter voices, because we are marginalized, because we part of a smaller group, but we can't let that mean we don't speak at all. We can't give up, wash our hands of it and hope the rest of the country doesn't vote a tyrant into the White House (or the Blaine House). We have to join the party, attend the town hall meeting, run for office, and do all we can to point ourselves in the right direction. 

Katrina Ray-Saulis

Biddeford

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