October 8, 2008

Inbox — Oct. 8, 2008

Letters to the Editor

CORRECTIONSThe Sept. 17 cover story about the Louisville Orchestra (“Performance enhancement”) reported that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra had recently declared bankruptcy. They have never declared bankruptcy, although they have faced financial woes in the recent past.  Also, due to an editing error in our Oct. 1 edition, the song “Art’s Groove” was printed as appearing on Steve Allee’s album Dragonfly. The song actually appears on the album New York in the Fifties.  A record review in the Oct. 1 issue mistakenly reported that Damien Jurado’s album Caught in the Trees was his debut.HIGHLANDS ON WAYSIDEOur critics are quick to claim that this is simply “NIMBY,” but that shows a lack of understanding. We peacefully live with a number of boarding facilities on East Broadway for alcoholics, schizophrenics, pregnant teens and the school for youth in crisis. A methadone clinic sits on Winter. Low-income housing is on Baxter and more on Rubel. Programs and clinics are run through the Urban Government Center on Barret. More examples only belabor the point; no one here is opposed to any programs that don’t threaten our neighborhoods.  The real issue is Wayside’s proposed SIZE, concentrated in a residential neighborhood. A mega-shelter can only add to the crime, litter, panhandling, noise and commercial pressures that all threaten to unravel the residential fabric of this area. Everything has an impact, and SIZE is always a key factor. While the full impact of a mega-shelter and hundreds of new, homeless residents in the neighborhood cannot be gauged in advance, sadly, perception is reality. Wayside’s proposal has already created disinclination in renovation and a negative attitude from potential homebuyers. And anything that threatens property values threatens the retirement, children’s tuitions and future for residents. We enjoy living in a growing, urban area, and we believe that finding the right balance between families, commercial and community interests is a worthwhile struggle. However, a mega-shelter could permanently alter this tenuous balance and return the area to the neglect that it faced during the 1980s and prior. Everyone wants to help our homeless residents, but balance is crucial. The choice that Wayside has given this neighborhood is unfair. “AT ANY SIZE” and “AT ANY COST” needs to be removed from the equation. There is a win-win solution. If Wayside wants to fit into residential areas it needs to look at well-integrated, appropriately sized shelters, and not threaten to overwhelm neighborhoods through sheer size. The national strategy (since the mid-’90s) has been to disperse poverty throughout a community, not to concentrate it. Placing mega-shelters that house hundreds of homeless individuals in small residential neighborhoods will always be a bad idea, but creating a community-wide network of well-integrated shelters will benefit our homeless residents and our neighborhoods.  It will be immediately claimed that this is too expensive. Is this too expensive for Wayside, which has roughly $9 million in the bank for expansion, or too expensive for the families and small businesses, who will have to bear the negative impact of a mega-shelter? The burden of expense and integration into neighborhoods must be on Wayside’s shoulders, not the residents’. Otherwise, Wayside should continue their East Jefferson expansion or any location in a commercial area that is less susceptible to impact.  Chuck Burke, Original Highlands Neighborhood Association, www.HighlandersForResponsibleGrowth.com, LouisvilleHOMELESS AIN’T EASYIn Jessica Foss’ Sept. 24 letter, she presents herself to be exactly what she claims not to be — a snob and, worse than that, a bigot. Her narrow view of the homeless would have one believe that the homeless consist of only drunks and crackheads. Since when did being homeless become synonymous with being a drug user? The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is women and children, usually fleeing domestic violence. I doubt she would be so self-righteous as to tell a woman who fled an abusive partner that she and her children would mar her peaceful community.   For argument’s sake, however, let us adopt Foss’ belief that all homeless are addicts. If this is the only cause for worry, Highlands residents should be reassured to know they currently have neighbors who are alcoholics and crackheads — they just aren’t homeless yet. Fortunately, some in our community have the financial means to address their addictions through private counseling and treatment. Their families have not yet severed ties and are still willing to offer support.  Residents across Louisville experience homelessness for a variety of reasons. Housing for this cross-section of our community should not be limited to Old Louisville and Third Street, where Foss believes the homeless should be contained, as if they had a communicable disease. It’s disheartening to know that Highlanders who I once considered to be liberal and forward-thinking are still preaching a Not In My Backyard philosophy.  Liz Langford, LouisvilleIN OUR SHOESAs a resident of the Original Highlands, I join those who are opposed to the Wayside Christian Mission shelter move. We moved to this (Highland Avenue) neighborhood from Cherokee Triangle because we love the people, the convenience of nearby restaurants and the beautiful Victorian home we are in the process of restoring. But make no mistake, the neighborhood is not without problems. Traffic, noise and crime continue to be problems from the bars in the area. If you lived in the Highlands 20 years ago, you know what this area was like. It is a testament to the residents of the neighborhood that it is experiencing such a wonderful resurgence. Which is why I am so disheartened to see comments printed in your publication and in others that paint the residents in such a nasty light. We are not a neighborhood that does not care about the less fortunate. I would venture to say we are already among the most economically diverse neighborhoods in the Highlands. There are many charitable enterprises in the neighborhood. The Highlands has a reputation for being the most liberal part of Louisville, and many of these comments smack of resentment toward this fact. I fail to understand why Wayside continues to move forward on this plan after it has been made clear that they do not have the neighborhood’s support. They, in fact, stated at an early neighborhood association meeting that they were not interested in moving into a neighborhood that did not want them. Reaction is not split in half — while there are some who support the move, I have not personally spoken to anyone who is not against the idea. Please do not tell me to “show some mercy.” It is condescending to the real concerns we hold. This is our neighborhood, and if we are concerned with crime or, yes, with property values, then that is our right. I recommend that before you judge us, you consider how you would feel if this were your home, and your hard work had helped to restore it to a vibrant urban neighborhood.Jessica Mills, Louisville