My wife and I took our first sea cruise in the early 1970s, journeying down the west coast of Mexico to visit such well-known watering holes as Acapulco and Mazatlán. My travel experiences had already included a lot of western Canada and European nations during a sister city exchange program where I lived for one year near Heidelberg, Germany.  

What I had never seen during travels in the U.S. and overseas was the contrast in living conditions between rich and poor like in the Mexican cities where we walked the avenues. What we witnessed was the eye-popping juxtaposition of squalor and destitution next to high rise luxury apartments. The views shocked, disturbed and sickened us while, simultaneously, we recognized how fortune we were to live in Oregon.

Now, more and more often, we view sights and conditions in Salem and the greater Portland area where Americans live outside in small tents and other makeshift shelters. While we don’t have the same level of contrasts we viewed in Mexico, the lack of a promising future with the prospect for improved lives appears not to be the order of the day for tens of thousands among us.

Yes, efforts have been and are underway to provide temporary housing to accommodate the homeless, enabling some of them to get inside a structure against the rigors of the cold, wet weather. However, what are the chances for these multitudes that opportunity will ‘knock on their door’ and the American Dream present itself within reach?

I grew up in an Oregon city where no family I was aware of was left out in the cold. It was rare when a family in dire straits were left to their own devices and needs not addressed. Why? Because living wage jobs were available and families thereby were able to establish safe, secure lives. The sick were cared for, period.  

Here and now, we are in considerable need of conditions and circumstances where our citizens, long-standing and newcomers, can find living wage jobs and secure a future. This kind of intervention is the direct intent of the infrastructure bill currently being debated in the U.S. Congress. It will provide jobs for tens of thousands, even millions of us, working to improve our bridges, highways, interstate freeways, water, air and a whole host of other critical-need projects, providing safe and healthy futures for all of us.

Contact your U.S. representative and senators as they will determine whether we succeed as a viable nation.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)