Like many Sun Journal readers, I read about the murder in Poland over Thanksgiving and felt disappointed that a man like Justin Butterfield could slip through the holes in our social safety net for so long.

But I also felt a great sense of loss because I knew Gabe D’Amour — not well, but enough to know his death was a preventable tragedy. Gabe was a kind and funny man who fought demons and struggled to stay housed.

Last year, I represented Gabe and his roommate pro bono against a landlord in Lewiston that let them live in conditions that wouldn’t be fit for an animal. They stayed, in part, because they had nowhere else to go. Rats running over their pillows and no working stove were better than living down by the river, especially this time of year.

Gabe won his case, but he did not recover enough to change the trajectory of his life.

Men, women and children in our community don’t cease to be unhoused simply because our city leaders fail to address the lack of available shelter beds. They live in conditions that are unsafe, unhealthy and unacceptable.

We have to do better as a community for people like Gabe, as well as his brother.

Amy Dieterich, Auburn

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