Memoirs of a Street Roots Vendor: My Story

The following piece ran alongside Leah Nash’s “Look at me. I am not invisible,” a photojournalism piece in the November 13 edition of Street Roots.

I would like to start out by thanking you guys, my readers, and patrons of the paper.  Without you, my continued survival would be compromised.  I’ve written this because people have asked me when and if I would be in the paper.  At this time I have chosen to self-publish in order to add “extra value” and make the papers uniquely mine.

This time, I am publishing my story so you can get to know me.

My name is Melissa Walsh. I have been homeless off and on since moving to Portland in July. I used to have a house, but my husband’s uncontrolled seizures led to job loss, which in turn led to foreclosure.  We are currently seeking help for him at Outside In Clinic.  The doctors over there are working hard to try and help.  I am disabled with Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

There are a lot of misconceptions about being a paper vendor.  The stereotype is a middle age drunken guy who is too lazy to do anything else.  I am none of the above.  I am 30, female, married, a renter, and my husband used to be a nursing aid.  The doctors don’t allow him to work now.  I have an associate’s degree, and have tried to find and keep work to no avail.

I have many interests and passions.  I am a yoga and tai chi practitioner.  I study philosophy, and I’m a semi-professional knitter and spindler.  The leaves are darkening on the trees, and there’s a change in the air.  The transition to fall has begun already.  I look outside my window as I read this, and the cloud cover is blanketing us with hues of grey.  I wonder when the seasonal rains will return again, their solemn drops nourishing the earth for the preparation of the harvest.

And all I can think of is wool.  Wonderful, luscious and warm, wool has helped many families through the cold months.  Wool is sturdy and strong and naturally water repellant.  It is also expensive and the price is out of my reach.  And yet I still dream of crafting warm sweaters for my husband and I.  My life is mostly about subsistence, but somehow, I still believe in the power of the ancient tradition of knitting to make it feel a little better.  When I knit, I feel more real, more human somehow.  I feel like I am doing something that makes a difference.  Knitting is about hope, bringing comfort and warmth in every stitch.

Even though I’m a Street Roots Vendor, I still believe in hard work and doing your best.  Knitting engenders that.  I am about quality, equity and freedom of expression.  Knitting allows for that.  Cheers to a job well done.

– Melissa M. Walsh

5 responses to “Memoirs of a Street Roots Vendor: My Story

  1. Pingback: “Look at me. I am not invisible.” « For those who can’t afford free speech

  2. Thanks for your information friends

  3. Pingback: Miracle on Portland’s streets « For those who can’t afford free speech

  4. Pingback: 2009 Annual Report: Letter from the director « For those who can’t afford free speech

  5. Pingback: 2009 SR Annual Report— letter from me… « Rocket Poetry

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