Our community experienced a tragedy on Christmas. The Drake Hotel, housing more than 200 people in our community who exist in the margins, burned and is a total loss (“For many, Drake fire is another displacement,” front page, Dec. 26). A blessing is that there seem to have been no reported deaths or serious injuries. The Drake is a modest form of housing. I use the word “modest” meaning most people wouldn’t live there if they had the means to live somewhere else. But it provided the most basic forms of shelter — a roof overhead, a place to sleep and toilet facilities.

With the ongoing conversation in our community about the need for affordable housing, this may be a tipping point for the crisis. The now well-known encampment in 2018 often referred to as the “Wall of Forgotten Natives” along Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis brought the topic up in local media and around the dinner table. Our local officials and certain nonprofits did step in to create a temporary solution in creating the Navigation Center, then moved to break ground to create 110 permanent housing units on that very site. A good start, but only a start.

The events associated with encampment were the catalyst that brought government, nonprofits and the public together to work on solutions. It seems pain and trouble are the great motivators, whether in one’s personal life or in that of a society.

The question is: Does everyone in the richest society on Earth deserve to be housed?

My hope and prayer is that the outcome of another devastating event in our community will bring that question to the forefront, so we as the people of Minnesota will answer this — affirmatively.

Richard Bahr, Maple Grove

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As medical director for well-being at HealthPartners and immediate past-president of the Twin Cities Medical Society, I’m delighted that Star Tribune Opinion published the Dec. 25 commentary “We know too well the toll of homelessness; we have suggestions.” The three young people who wrote the essay have firsthand experience with homelessness.

Medical research shows that stable housing is a key determinant of good health. People who are homeless are four times more likely to die than people with secure housing. Children who are homeless are much more likely to have problems in school and difficulty getting along with others. Adults who are homeless are far more likely to be violent to their partners. People who are homeless are much more likely to delay getting help for health problems.

Layoffs, lack of affordable housing, medical emergencies and low entry-level wages all contribute to homelessness.

On the other hand, affordable housing promotes health and well-being. Insuring that all individuals and families have housing is far more cost-effective than most modern medical interventions.

The authors of the Christmas Day commentary are right: Wise legislators will save taxpayers’ money and save lives if they make a dramatic increase in affordable housing a top priority for the 2020 legislative session.

Dr. Thomas E. Kottke, St. Paul

• • •

Several student writers describe their homeless experiences and a few possible suggestions, but offer little as to the causes for hundreds of Minnesota students being homeless at any given time. We need to understand the problem before determining and implementing the most effective solutions to eliminate student, and all, homelessness statewide. Are they homeless by choice, through abuse at home, abandoned by family, suffering from mental illness and/or addictions, or are they immigrants new to our state?

As to ideas to house students, children should have options for foster homes and families given priority for any available affordable housing. Many HUD properties need safety improvements, including costly sprinkler installations. The Christmas Day Drake Hotel fire displacing another 200 individuals will require a major housing accommodation. Students need stable homes, while many seniors need help to stay in their homes; why not implement an organized “adopt a student” program that would meet the mutual needs of students and seniors? Many have far more home than they need and could take in a reliable student, while students with health-related needs would need specialized placements.

Ending current homelessness in Minnesota will be costly. Perhaps a more limited open invitation for adding ever more immigrants should be considered, at least for the immediate future.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis


A reminder of what is missing from politicians these days

John Rash’s Dec. 21 column, “Conscience, conviction amid ‘A Hidden Life’, ” was a timely reminder of what is sorely missing in too many of our politicians these days. While making outrageous comparisons of recent impeachment hearings with the crucifixion of Jesus and Pearl Harbor, pusillanimous Republicans en bloc were fearful of losing their temporary seats rather than their permanent integrity.

I was also reminded of our own outstanding, late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who in his 1968 presidential bid courageously challenged Lyndon B. Johnson of his own party on the Vietnam War.

Is it any wonder that our party system again has demonstrated how dysfunctional it is and that our Founding Fathers initially had serious misgivings about parties due to the fear that politicians would adhere more to ideology rather than what was best for the country, or the world, for that matter?

Richard Laybourn, Bloomington


DNR’s timber-cutting plan works, but computers aren’t the answer

As a wildlife advocate, a champion for water quality, conservationist, forester and hunter who spends a great deal of time in many of Minnesota’s forested wildlife management areas (WMAs), I’d like to point out that many of our forested WMAs in Minnesota are in great need of forest disturbance (a natural process) that can be mimicked effectively with carefully planned timber harvests (“Disturbance in the woods,” Outdoors, Dec. 22). Rather than focusing on, and fighting over, a number or a computer model that is generated in an office, we should be promoting good forestry that protects riparian areas along lakes and streams and preserves areas of mature forest within the areas cut, similar to the guidelines outlined in the Golden-winged Warbler Conservation Plan.

We should be careful not to assume that all timber harvest is bad and realize that we can meet the objectives of mature wildlife habitat and water quality while still harvesting timber. Minnesota’s forests are dynamic, and “doing nothing” or allowing some of these stands to mature past the point where they can be harvested or managed also has negative consequences to the future generations of wildlife and hunters that will come after us.

Will Bomier, Mahtowa, Minn.


To the writer in charge of headlines

Regarding the article on Page A3 on Dec. 27 (“Private land a barrier to building Trump’s border wall”): President Donald Trump may have walls around his various properties, but the one he is working to build (fulfilling a campaign promise) on the Southern border is actually America’s wall.

Chris Schonning, Andover

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