Letter to the editor: Language used in homeless story was disrespectful

We are writing in response to the front page article “Midd police struggle with homelessness surge” (Addison Independent, Oct. 17). We were shocked and saddened by the tenor of the discussion. On several occasions, consideration for the dignity and humanity of those in our community experiencing homelessness seemed to be absent.

Again and again we discerned a push to define those spending time at the town’s gazebo by an “other” or “bad” category. Specifically, we were offended by the language used by select board member Laura Asermily when she said, “….We talk about good guests and bad guests. We just have some bad guests…” Several people interviewed maintained a stance that the people at the gazebo were not from our community. It’s true some individuals may have arrived from other states recently, but we know of many who spend time at the gazebo each day who are lifelong residents of Addison County who are merely looking for a dry space to connect with friends at the end of a school day or before their transitional housing opens up at 9 p.m.

There are so many factors that make it difficult for individuals to sustain long-term housing including access to adequate financial resources, access to mental health support, and access to quality, affordable childcare.

We would ask our progressive community: Are we striving to remove these oppressive barriers for all individuals who call Addison County home? Have we made the effort to connect with the people we are talking about and uncover what brings them joy? What are their greatest struggles? What is exhausting about living a transitional life? Who has asked them directly what they would find helpful? We know funds were allotted for a fence to be erected beside the church. We wonder how those funds could be better used to uplift and support all members of our community, especially new members of Addison County?

Lastly, if it was your son, daughter, nephew or niece at the gazebo, what language would you hope your local newspaper and selectboard would use to describe them? 

Deirdre Kelly, Steve Alexander and Clara Carroll of Lincoln; Anna Smith of Burlington; Katy Howe of Shelburne; and Sherry DeGray of Bridport

All work in Middlebury

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Addison County Independent

58 Maple Street
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100