Feb. 20: Letters at length

Don't persecute homeless

Saturday's Tidings announced the city’s plan to remove the fountain and plantings from downtown’s Chautauqua Square. The article notes that the objective is to “make the area less attractive as a transient hangout.” This seems to be a continuation of the current approach to Ashland’s Plaza: The city is removing shade, grass, and water from downtown in order to drive out the homeless.

I would like to point out two shortcomings of this approach, one aesthetic and one moral: First, the very same things that make public places attractive to the homeless make them attractive and enjoyable for the rest of us; second, we should not drive from public spaces the people who need them most.

I acknowledge that some homeless people have been the source of problems in downtown Ashland, but this is no reason to persecute the rest of a vulnerable and beleaguered population. Let’s not forget that the majority of crimes are committed by people who do have homes. The whole range of offenses, from domestic violence, to drunk driving, to insider trading, are committed mostly by people who live indoors. That doesn't mean we must bulldoze the suburbs or illegalize golf courses.

The vast majority of homeless people in downtown squares are simply enjoying public spaces like the rest of us. I am not offended by the sight of someone trying to stay warm in a sleeping bag, and I really don’t mind the sound of a guitar or banjo coming from the park bench. I much prefer a future downtown Ashland with trees, fountains and flowers — and, yes, some homeless people — to a downtown that is barren, sanitized, and reserved for the affluent.

Sean F. McEnroe, Ashland

Ashland Food Project says thanks

On Valentine's Day, people in Ashland showed their love for the Ashland Food Project and the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Our food donors put their AFP green bags out on their porches, and more than 140 volunteer neighborhood coordinators picked up those bags and took them down to the AEFB to replenish their nearly empty shelves. At the end of the day, more than 24,000 pounds of food had been donated. As the old song says..."love was in the air."

The AFP Steering Committee wants to thank those people who made this pickup a success. First, our nearly 2,400 donors, who represent nearly 24 percent of the households in Ashland, who gave generously to make this great total possible. Twenty-four thousand pounds beat our previous February record by more than 3,000 pounds! Our pickup people, who we call neighborhood coordinators, volunteer their time every two months to go out into their neighborhoods, pick up the bags and bring them to the Food Bank. The line of vehicles stuffed with green bags at times stretched all the way out to Clover Lane.

Thank you to all the volunteers at the Food Bank who made the off-loading of green bags a smooth operation, from those at the greeting table to those doing the heavy lifting at the weighing tables.

And finally we want to thank our sponsors whose support helps to make our pickups every two months a success. Larks restaurant sponsored our February thank-you cards that reminded our donors that Feb. 14 was pickup day. And Recology, which sponsors our April thank-you cards, let donors know that the next pick up will be on Saturday, April 11.

If you would like to become a member of the Ashland Food Project, helping to sustain the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, just go to ashlandfoodproject.com, scroll down and click on "I'd like to be a donor" or call and leave your contact info at 541-488-6976.

Rich Stickle, Ashland

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