Two senior students in the USM Bachelors of Social Work program recently had their columns exmaning Portland's poor and homeless appear in local newspapers.
The Portland Press Herald published Lida Holst's op-ed "Portland's panhandling ban exacerbates a problem by trying to hide it," which addresses Portland's ordinance prohibiting individuals from standing, sitting, driving or parking on a median strip within city limits. In addition, the Bangor Daily News published Robert Marcroft's column "Portland, Maine: A city that helps tourists more than its homeless, poor," in which he argues, "It is clear the city is eager to create a playground for tourists while ignoring the necessity to provide more affordable housing to those living in poverty."
Holst and Marcroft prepared their essays for Dr. Paula Gerstenblatt's course "Social Work Methods II: Organizational and Community Change," in which students compose essays about an issue related to communities and organization and the relationship to social justice, diversity, power and oppression. The writing exercise offers students an opportunity to present an effective and concise argument about important issues that impact the lives of their clients and the communities they live in.
In her column, Holst argues, "Unfortunately, this new ordinance does not help to eradicate poverty and homelessness; it only frees the Portland community from having to see and think about it...While the effects of the ordinance may seem to have a direct and visible change in the amount of poverty Portland residents are subjected to, the indirect repercussions will be far more debilitating. As opposed to using a reactionary approach to the social issue of poverty, Portland needs to take a stand in implementing more forward-moving measures."