Our Pledge To You

Letters to the Editor

How federal government shutdown threatens seniors in Chicago

Melissa Cicola, from San Diego, and John Ciclola, from Prescott Arizona, crawl under the gate and walk up the road to see what they can see on foot as Arches National Park in Utah remains closed due to the partial government shutdown on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

At Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, we believe in the power of homeownership to strengthen families and neighborhoods. As part of this mission, we help seniors and fixed-income homeowners with porch and roof repairs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These repairs help homeowners stay in their homes, and prevent them from needing more expensive taxpayer-funded senior rental housing if they are forced out of their home due to an inability to maintain the property.

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If the federal government shutdown continues, this program will stop, as will the individuals we employ to do this work, as will the contractors responsible for carrying out these important repairs. This is just one of the myriad helpful and cost-effective affordable housing programs that are funded by the federal government. This is a program that makes sense. It also makes cents for the taxpayer in that it precludes the use of more expensive intervention that is needed once a senior loses his or her home.

Political disagreements may be causing this shutdown, but its effects are far-reaching and will cause real harm to many hard-working Chicagoans if a compromise is not reached soon. Each of us can help end this detrimental shutdown by picking up the phone to our congressional leaders and the White House to convey the urgency of this situation.

Kristin Faust

President

Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago

Come clean about vaping

Ask any parent or teacher about the biggest drug trend among teens, and they’ll say vaping. What started as a fad has gone mainstream and we now face an epidemic that could wipe away progress from decades of hard work to reduce teen smoking rates.

In 2011, only 1.5 percent of high school students had vaped. In 2016, it was 11.3. In 2018, 20.8, a staggering 78 percent increase over 2017 – 1.5 million more kids vaping.

To make matters worse, the surge in vaping has led more students smoking cigarettes. High school cigarette use was up about 33 percent from 2017, reversing a decline that had been steady for many years.

Despite rumors that persist among youth, vaping is not healthy, and it’s not benign. It has numerous negative health implications. Strong scientific evidence indicates:

  • Vapor aerosol from e-cigarettes contains numerous toxic substances, as well as heavy metals.
  • The chemicals in e-cigarette vapor causes DNA damage and mutagenesis, the biological process that leads to cancer.
  • Vaping nicotine is addictive. Studies show kids who vape are more likely to smoke cigarettes and, when they do, smoke more than they otherwise would.

If you’re a parent, let your kids know the truth about vaping. They’ve likely gotten most of their information from their friends, the industry, and/or their media circles on the internet, none of which will give them the information they need to make thoughtful, educated decisions about their health.

Second, contact your federal legislators. If lawmakers hear from the constituents who elected them that our children need protection and the vaping industry needs regulation, they will listen.

Aaron Weiner, PhD
Director, Addiction Services
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health
Naperville