‘I feel like I’m a part of something’

Vendor George Mayes reflects on his first demonstration calling for greater federal action for affordable housing and an end to criminalizing the homeless

By Israel Bayer
Staff Writer

George Mayes, a Street Roots vendor, caravanned down to San Francisco along with other housing activists from Portland for the Jan. 20 rally for housing and homelessness. More than 1,000 individuals on the streets and advocates from across California and Oregon converged there to ask the federal government to adequately fund affordable housing and ensure that local governments are upholding the rights of individuals on the streets.

The trip was more than about reaching a destination, it was a four-day project that began with a teach-in with residents in Ashland about housing and homelessness.

It was George’s first rally, but it’s unlikely to be his last.

Israel Bayer: How are you feeling about the trip, George?

George Mayes: I’m feeling good about the trip. It was very interesting. It was enlightening for me. It was great going into Ashland and doing what we did there. I met a feel few people and engaged folks and learned a lot of things. We all have something to learn from one another.

And going through Shasta and the snow. (The caravan got stuck in a snowstorm for three hours between Shasta and Weed, Calif.) The snow was an enlightening experience for me. I haven’t been in a snowstorm like that since 1966 when we were kids coming from Portland to L.A. It shook my memory of driving with me and my dad and younger brother and sister. It brought me back to Memory Lane, and made me smile.

And I have to say, seeing the sights and being able to get out of the city was really good for me. All the conversation and being able to be with so many amazing individuals is special. And to be honest, just being able to lay back and get some sleep in a comfortable van wasn’t bad either.

I.B.: What did you think of the march?

G.M.: It was the first time I was ever in a rally or march in my life. I was looking at all the people on the side of the streets, looking at us and thinking, that use to be me. It’s made me think a lot and reflect. The hollering and screaming and the camaraderie from the entire group of people from all over the country. The energy was high. Through all of this I’ve made a lot of new friendships.

I.B.: Anything else you would like to add?

G.M.: It has pumped me up to do some more and I’m looking forward. It’s important to advocate for the homeless. I feel like I’m a part of something. I’ve always tried to help, and since I found myself on the streets, I’ve learned what it means to advocate not only for myself, but for others.  Anytime Street Roots has a mission, I’m ready to go. All of this has changed me and I’m still processing it, to be honest. It’s hard to describe.

2 responses to “‘I feel like I’m a part of something’

  1. George, you rock. I am very glad I got to know you on this trip, and glad you were on our van.
    You, Brian, Israel, Julie,and any SR folk I’m forgetting added something very special to a trip that could have tipped-over into complete disaster at any time.

    Profoundly, thank you.


  2. Thanks Richard for all your leadership. We formed some great bonds this part week. It was a moment in time. Let’s hope the water wasn’t cresting, but what we are a part of is just the beginning.

    – Israel

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