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Support for Supportive Housing

I commend City Paper, and Edward Ericson Jr. specifically, for choosing to highlight the issue of the lack of access to affordable housing in Baltimore City. In his article “We Are Not in the Housing Business” (Feature, Sept. 29), Mr. Ericson chooses to look at this issue through the lens of the allegedly substandard supportive housing for city residents in recovery from a treatment program that is not funded by Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc.

What I take exception with is the fact that my comments, in their entirety, were not included as part of the final story. Instead Mr. Ericson chose to paraphrase my comments, leaving the reader with the possible impression that I or my organization—Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc. (bSAS)—were/are in some way against supportive housing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have been in the field of substance abuse recovery for 20 years. Over and over again, I have witnessed the courage of individuals suffering from addiction strive to enter treatment, face their fears, and rebuild their lives, yet have their efforts destroyed because of the lack of affordable housing that supports recovery. The consequences of living in housing where others are actively using or selling drugs has resulted in many returning to prison or winding up in emergency rooms, and, in many cases, death.

Historically, we have only been able to fund programs that are licensed by the state of Maryland, and supportive housing has not been a type of healthcare service for which they have regulations. While it is true that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has now approved the ability of local jurisdictions to contract with supportive housing providers, they still have not released any definitions of what exactly supportive housing is, and we remain constrained by this. We take very seriously our mission to contract only with providers that meet the highest quality standards, and bSAS consistently demands more from the treatment providers we contract with than the state’s minimum standards.

Over the past 10 years, we have monitored the quality of the clinical and financial well-being of the programs we fund and are proud of the national recognition we have received for quality and innovation. This was recently highlighted by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy drug czar visit on Aug. 27 when he stated that our treatment system was a model that should be copied nationally.

There are significant issues in the management of these homes, the rules its tenants will live by, and the zoning requirements demanded by the city that we must resolve before we can begin to assist our citizens in recovery with publicly financed housing that supports and maintains the quality of life they aspire to. While we hope to be the first jurisdiction in the state to begin contracting with supportive housing providers, we will do so only after a careful review of the quality standards taxpayers demand.

Greg Warren
President and CEO, Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc.
Baltimore

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: It was not my intention to leave the impression that Greg Warren, or bSAS, opposes supportive housing. I know he doesn’t, and I thought that his desire to direct funding to it—as soon as such funds are available—was clear within the context.

I read the incredible article “The Stuttering Con Man” (Mobtown Beat, Sept. 29) about Darien Craig Small. The article depicts a criminal who preys on innocent people and their money through fraud.

However, as a PWS (person who stutters), I feel compelled to write something about stuttering. Unfortunately, films that come out of Hollywood still portray stutterers as deviant or crazy in a manner that promotes ridicule and mockery. I feel compelled to give your readers some statistics about stuttering.

Stuttering affects 1 percent of the worldwide adult population and about 4 percent of the child population. For the first time last February, scientists identified genes that account for stuttering in 9 percent of the cases, and for the other 91 percent of the cases strong evidence points to both genetic and neurological factors.

I want your readers to know of a great resource on stuttering. The web site of the Stuttering Foundation (stutteringhelp.org) offers many free resources, including streaming videos, downloadable brochures, and more. One of the brochures, “Special Education Law and Children Who Stutter,” tells that every child in the United States has the right to free speech therapy as has been guaranteed by federal law since the 1970s, from preschool through high school. People should know that the free therapy extends to all speech problems faced by kids and is not limited to stuttering.

The web site of this nonprofit organization currently has an article about the movie The King’s Speech as well as the stuttering of England’s King George VI. When this movie finally opens worldwide, it will be the first one in my lifetime to have portrayed a person who stutters in a positive light. I can’t wait for it to open here in the United States. Darien Craig Small is in no way representative of people who stutter.

Ed DePhillips
Fort Lee, NJ

She Prefers the Term “Afrocentric Feminist”

Has anyone noticed that Larnell Custis Butler (“Bernstein: White Man Keeping Score,” The Mail, Sept. 29) is a fucking racist?

Eric I. Esler
Baltimore

Regarding the Right to Vote

Matthew Hood’s advocacy of literacy tests (“Prole Tax,” The Mail, Sept. 22) as a requisite to be allowed to vote is not only unwise but is unconstitutional as well.  Ironically, Mr. Hood’s reasoning that literacy tests, and anything else for that matter, that was used in a discriminatory manner in the past should not necessarily be generalized as discriminatory or “racist” in the present was the most sensible point he made in his letter.

Despite what Mr. Hood seems to believe, the right to vote is just that, a right.  This right should not be denied on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, or, dare I say it, one’s literacy abilities.  To relegate voting to a “privilege,” like enlisting in the military or attending college, would be to blatantly disregard the 15th Amendment of the Constitution.  And I’m sure Mr. Hood, who seems, despite his letter, rather intelligent, has read the Constitution and understands the importance of keeping the rights enumerated within it intact.

That being said, I can sympathize with Mr. Hood’s frustration about the democratic system and the politicians who seem to be the only beneficiaries of it.  Also, I agree with the sentiment that there need to be fresh faces in public office from time to time.  I would even posit that the flaw in the American democratic system is not that we allow anyone to vote regardless of the knowledge that they possess, but that we allow anyone to run for office without any knowledge of their abilities to carry out their job. 

But we must remember that the reason this country is great is because of our rights as citizens, whether they were acquired at birth or later in life, and we shouldn’t be so willing to dispose of them because of anger or frustration, especially considering so many of our rights are beginning to seem rather ephemeral.

W. Lee Silver
Baltimore

Clarification: Last week’s feature on supportive housing for recovering addicts (“‘We Are Not in the Housing Business,’” Sept. 29) included a photograph of the Baltimore Behavorial Health building with a sign reading active day displayed on its side, Active Day, a medical adult-daycare provider, leases space in the building but is otherwise unassociated with BBH.

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