Director’s Desk: How does that sound to you?

A good friend of mine, and fellow housing advocate told me this week, “It’s not what you are saying, or even how you say it, but it’s what people hear that’s important.” I thought about that for a long time, and pondered how people in Portland view people on the streets, our vendors, the newspaper and how that relates to the broader public.

Much of what Street Roots strives to do through the newspaper is to create an atmosphere for the community to think and talk about issues important to poor people and how that relates to everyone, regardless of your financial lot in life. From what’s happening on the block and at a grassroots level to what’s happening behind the scenes in the halls of power and with policy concerning the livability of poor and common folk.

In the coming months Street Roots has plotted out an editorial budget that will look at a number of things, including doing photojournalism pieces of people and families living on the street, youth downtown and to continue to tell a story that is interesting and compelling.

I had a conversation with a vendor this week that told me that if it wasn’t for Street Roots that he still would be breaking windows in cars and stealing things to survive. He is what some have referred to as a “Road Warrior,” a troubled street youth that is being accused of threatening the quality of life downtown. He told me that stealing was all he knew. He had to survive. The young man went on to tell me that life didn’t mean a whole lot for him: he had been abused, he was sleeping under a bridge and in many ways he couldn’t see a way out.  Since he starting selling the newspaper, he claims that he hasn’t done anything illegal and that he was getting by with the sales of the paper. “It’s the only thing keeping me going right now,” he told me.

Will this young man become a success story? Will he end up in prison, or worse? I don’t know the answer to that question, only he does. But I can tell you that there’s more to every human being on the streets than meets the eye. This is our goal through the vendor program and the newspaper. To look and think about things a bit differently, while trying to capture proactive solutions and formulas to create change in our community. Do we always get it right? Of course not, we’re only human.

Street Roots is working hard, with a small staff and a small army of volunteers to up the ante in our community around poverty. To present, dissect and deliver creative ways to address poverty— from the language we use and messaging, to highlighting roadmaps and successes in other communities, to challenging foundations, activists, businesses and government to look beyond what’s in front of them and to build a movement for real change. Communication is one of the key avenues that will get us there. Without the proper avenues (blogs, Web sites, newspapers) to deliver important messages and to tell people’s stories, we as a social justice community are left in the dark, acting alone.

This next year Street Roots hopes to at least create an atmosphere where the issue of homelessness and housing (gentrification) can begin to be talked about from a health perspective. Right now, everything is framed in terms of pubic safety. Public safety equals quality of life and quality of life for poor people, without adequate resources, means more policing, shelter beds and band-aid approaches to homelessness. It’s not enough.

As a reader, and a person that has taken the time to build a relationship with a vendor and to purchase and read our newspaper, we value your input. We hope that we are on the right track and invite you to connect with us on issues that matter to you. We take our journalism seriously and how we are presenting important issues. We hope that what you’re hearing is as clear as what we are presenting. Because after all, it’s not what we’re saying that matters most, but how you’re hearing it.

Comments are closed as of Dec 17 2012 to prepare for migration of content to our new News site.

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