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Letter: Selective use of statistics was fallacious and mean

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Pete Marinucci’s commentary (Opinion, July 25) about the controversy over proposed low-income housing for homeless people in the Arbor Park neighborhood of Moorhead might, at first glance, seem like a well-researched argument that can’t be refuted. A closer look, though, reveals statistics that don’t mean much, and an argument that is not just fallacious but downright mean.

Who’s drinking?

Marinucci cites only one source in his discussion, the Wilder Research Study from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Let’s give Marinucci the benefit of the doubt and trust his accuracy in the statistics he brings in, such as “34 percent [of homeless in the area] reported using alcohol in the last 30 days.” Never mind that the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 56.3 percent of Americans “reported that they drank [alcohol] in the last month” (niaaa.nih.gov).

Who’s mentally ill?

Marinucci goes on to insist that the homeless in this area are disproportionately mentally ill: “44 percent feel they need to see a health professional about emotional or mental health problems.” But according to the National Institute of Health, this is eerily in line with the rest of America, including homed people. “Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older – about one in four adults – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year” (nimh.nih.gov). So, it would seem to be a good idea that 44 percent feel the need to see a professional, as statistically, more than half will have a diagnosable condition.

When we factor in the incredible stresses of food insecurity, couch hopping, and providing for children, it is surprising that a higher number do not feel anxiety and depression.

Just not true

Marinucci argues that because 63 percent of Moorhead’s homeless are not from the state, that the best solution is to “restrict the influx of these itinerant marauders.” In Marinucci’s world, the homeless in our area are drunk, stoned, crazy and hell-bent on ruining not only Arbor Park but all of us. The problem with this vision is, it’s not true.

I can speak to this issue because for more than 10 years, I lived two blocks from the Churches United for the Homeless shelter. My children and I walked past the shelter every day; we shared the library, coffee shop and post office space with its residents. How many problems did we encounter? None.

Neighborhoods change

Since Churches United has left the neighborhood for another location, more historical homes in my neighborhood have been bought up by out-of-town investors and converted into rentals for college students. The past several years have brought broken beer bottles on our street, 3 a.m. parties, and a drunken college student trying to jump our back fence. We’ve called the police, only to be told they can’t do anything about these neighbors because they “didn’t see anything,” while the rare incident at Churches United nearly always ended with the offender in the back seat of the squad car. One student told us, “if you don’t like the noise, tough – get better insulation.”

There is more than one way to bring a neighborhood down. Are some of the students in the neighborhood OK? As a matter of fact, they are.

No certainty

Marinucci can parade his statistics, and police officers can show up at meetings with anecdotes, but the fact is, no one can say for sure that low-income housing will increase crime, or any other problem, in one neighborhood.

Oh, and one last statistic, this time from the Wilder study that Marinucci may have overlooked – “initial findings show that nearly half (46 percent) of all homeless people are age 21 and younger, of which 3,546 were children with their parents” (wilder.org). Those l’il marauders need a place to live.

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