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Letter: Report on homelessness prompts questions

I was once again made painfully aware by the Bemidji Pioneer article, appearing on Nov. 17, on the plight of the poor and the homeless in our area.

Out of appreciation, I thank many of our friends who have toiled in a variety of agencies or as volunteers working to improve the lot of the poor. I look to the great efforts of the workers at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf. I look to other support groups and say thank you.

Your report makes me ask disturbing questions. How do we stand today? Are there fewer needs? Are there more successes? Are we dealing more with the symptoms and less with the diseases of homelessness?

I see two problems. First, on the economic side, the general absence of decent paying jobs, skill sets not being adequately met through public and private entrepreneurs, and local resources not being fully utilized affect the poor. Second, the seeming loss of will or personal responsibility among some of the downtrodden is the other major problem.

I have two suggestions/questions.

First, government agencies, whether you like them or not, play an important role in today’s economic climate. So I ask, why do most state and federal agencies have most of their employees in St. Paul or Washington D.C.? It seems to me that computers work just as well here as there. Are our elected representatives locking on to the potential of technology to bring future employment opportunities to our area? Also, are our elected representatives, our schools and businesses taking full advantage of the revolution occurring in science, in technology and in engineering?

Second, personal responsibility, a touchy subject to be sure, needs to be promoted more by all of us. Discussing this issue can be seen as a way to distance oneself from the issues of the poor, but I disagree. Whether rich or poor, one’s will can overcome many ills such as drug usage, self-indulgence and the like. One’s will can dissuade those who would oppress the poor. One’s will can lead to reason through intellectual development. And, it can lead to self-determination, hope and dignity.

As for the Pioneer, persevere.

Fulton Gallagher