Vendor profile: Volunteering keeps vendor connected


By Cole Merkel, Staff Writer

Every Thursday, Street Roots vendor William Adams helps make bologna and cheese sandwiches for Operation Nightwatch, a hospitality center he has been a community member of for more than three years. He began making the sandwiches five months ago. “I walked into it,” William says. One afternoon there was a need for someone to help make sandwiches; William was in the church and he stepped up to the plate, so to speak, to help. Continue reading

A room with a view: One year on in housing


By Leo Rhodes, Contributing Columnist

Dec. 7, 1941, is a day that will live infamy, as President Roosevelt put it. Coming from Arizona, this day was and still is a big date as the USS Arizona became the first ship to sink into Pearl Harbor that December morning. In the Northeast corner of Arizona is the Navajo reservation where most of the Navajo code talkers came from. My hero, Ira Hayes — one of the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima — came from my reservation. Also on my reservation were two internment camps. Years later, I was asked to write poems for the 20th anniversary of the memorial for the camps. What I was going to write was a comparison of how they treated the Japanese-Americans to how they treat the homeless today.

Change of plans. Continue reading

Fiscal cliff debate is about political priorities, not economics

By Robin Hahnel, Contributing Columnist

We just had an election which repudiated the Republican economic agenda for America. So what begins the morning after? The only economic subject talked about is “the fiscal cliff” — the Republican economic agenda!

The fiscal cliff is the latest version of the same trap the wealthy, the military industrial complex, and the Republican Party have been setting over and over again since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The interesting question is why anyone still falls for it.

If the federal government cuts taxes for the wealthy, and if the federal government insists on growing a military industrial complex even after the cold war has ended, then, eventually, there is no alternative in the long run but to either cut federal spending on domestic programs that actually help people and make the economy more productive or to increase taxes on the middle class or to let the national debt continue to grow. That is simple arithmetic. Continue reading

Oregon’s affordable housing on the edge of the fiscal cliff

By Jake Thomas, Staff Writer


It sounds like an invasive medical procedure. In a way it is, and it’s about to be performed on the entire country unless Congress acts fast.

In Portland, sequestration — a wonky term for general cuts in government spending — could result in less affordable housing and leave some of the city’s most vulnerable people struggling to put a roof over their heads. And the political hiatus in Washington over the future budget has local housing agencies hanging in limbo over how to prepare for the chopping block.

“Almost every resource that we have to build affordable housing will see cuts,” said John Miller, executive director of the Oregon Opportunity Network, of the looming and deep cuts to the federal budget. Continue reading

Dear City Council: A prescription for healthy streets

By Rob Sadowsky, Contributing Columnist

I write this letter to the Portland City Council as it seats two new members: Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick. As you sit down over the next few months building new relationships, making new appointments, swapping bureaus and considering new directions. I offer this prescription for healthy streets:

Our streets have the potential to transform our communities. Trans-portation policies of the past too often divided communities, particularly those most underserved. Instead, be inspired by the potential offered by building livable communities that are vibrant, active and economically sustainable for everyone. Continue reading

The health care debate isn’t over: Let your voice be heard

By Sam Metz, Contributing Columnist

Does the specter of your family going bankrupt from a disease not covered by your health insurance keep you staring sleeplessly at the ceiling? Have you lost hope that our country will ever get the health care system we need?

There is a solution, and you can make it happen.

It is single-payer health care. Single payer applies the common characteristics of every successful health care system: (1) It includes everyone without discrimination against the sick, (2) it encourages patients to seek health care at the first suspicion of trouble, and (3) it finances health care with publicly accountable, transparent, not-for-profit agencies.

Will single-payer health care really work?

It already works. Around the world and in our own country, single-payer systems provide better care to more people for less money than our American insurance industry. Continue reading

‘Sounding the deeps of his nature’ — Remembering Ted Jack

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Ted Jack was a simple man. He lived a very complex and hard life.

Born on a boat off the Alaskan coast into a youth spent in orphanages, Ted ran away from a world he would never speak about. He was all of eight years old. Learning how to look after his needs at a very young age and not to rely on others, Ted lived a life few human beings could ever imagine.

Ted did what many young men and women have done throughout the centuries when faced with surviving in the world without an education and a family safety net: He learned the life of a fisherman. Continue reading

Incarceration is not health care; police are not physicians

By Gustav Cappaert, Contributing Writer

In May 2010, someone called the Portland police to report a man talking to himself and spitting on cars in Old Town. When a police officer arrived, he found the man unwilling to be handcuffed. The officer hit the man with pepper spray and four Taser blasts. The man had schizophrenia.

The officer was not reprimanded for his response, and is now a co-defendant in a trial for a separate case of police brutality. His is not an isolated offense; the Portland area has seen at least 160 police involved deaths. In September 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed what most in the mental health community already knew when they “exposed” a longstanding pattern of excessive force by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). In October, the city and the federal government reached an agreement. Under this plan, the city will add two Mobile Crisis Units — in which a mental health worker is paired with a police officer — revise its use-of-force policies; hire internal investigators; and create the Community Oversight Advisory Board which will meet twice a year. Continue reading

The Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard talks about giving back to the community

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Damian Lillard is the real deal. Having grown up in Oakland, Calif. and going to college at Weber State in Utah, Lillard has flown under the radar for many basketball fans.

Lillard was a first-round draft pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. On Nov. 3, Lillard joined Oscar Robertson as one of the only players to record 20 or more points and more than seven assists in their first three rookie season games.

Lillard recently talked with Street Roots the Trail Blazers’ annual Harvest Dinner about his experience as a young basketball player and being humbled by the experience of playing in the NBA.

Israel Bayer: You recently tweeted, “I’m humble because I’m blessed. I could have been someone else and someone struggling could have been me.” Can you talk more on what you meant by this?

Damian Lillard: To me, it means I am humbled because I am blessed to be in this position. For a lot of people, sometimes poverty and hard times are out of people’s control. It’s hard to know where we all may end up. A lot of unfortunate things come up for some people. Not only was I able to go to college, experience that, and be successful. I am now making millions of dollars playing basketball. It’s a blessing to be here.

It could easily have been me or my family that fell on hard times and ended up homeless. Some of these folks could have been living the life that I live.

I.B.: You grew up in Oakland, so you know about poverty.

D.L.: It was tough. I come from a neighborhood where a lot was going on — violence, drugs, and a lot of homeless people. It’s stuff like this that I take to heart because I wish someone did something like the Harvest Dinner for people in my neighborhood. There were a lot of homeless people who don’t have this opportunity.

I am happy that I can come here and experience it all and talk to people. It’s funny, because I was just telling somebody that I would like to do something like this in my hometown. Just so that people know you want to help. You never know what peoples’ stories are. Anytime you can give back and help people, it’s a good thing.

I.B.: You have talked about your father being a role model. How important was having a male role model growing up?

D.L.: It means a lot when you have somebody that is solid and somebody that has really been a father figure for you. They can steer you in the right direction. They can be that person to tell you when you are doing something wrong and correct you.

A lot of single mothers break down sometimes because they have to deal with so much like making sure they keep the lights on, food on the table, paying the rent, making sure your child has clothes. Managing that stress can become overwhelming.

When a kid doesn’t have that father, you start to look to other directions for that comfort and support. That might be their friend’s who are falling into the wrong things. Having a  father figure and that guidance is so important.

I.B.: Have these experiences prepared you for today. I mean, you are now living the dream.

D.L.: Having that support and foundation in my family really prepared me for this. It’s hard to even put into words. Again, I am humbled by this experience and work hard. I will do my best to take advantage of what’s been offered to me.

I.B.: For many people experiencing homelessness, they tend to hang onto every Trail Blazer game. Talk a little bit about what sports means to people in a community?

D.L.: I can understand for many people on the streets, they might not have a chance to go and watch a game — maybe they don’t have a TV. Anything we can do that might take these negative things off of people’s mind and have something positive to hold onto, even if it’s for a few moments is a great thing.

Knowing that NBA players have this type of impact on people — kids, families, people struggling, for me, it’s about lifting people up.

Being an athlete can pick you up when you are down, and pick other people’s spirits up. That’s what sports is all about. I’m not above the people.

I.B.: What are you hoping to get out of the next year?

D.L.: I am hoping that we can grow as a team and I can grow as a person.  Anytime we can pick people up, I am all about it. We’re going to give our best.


The Judah blues explosion

Judah Bauer (far right) with his Jon Spencer Blues Explosion band mates, Russel Simins (left) and Jon Spencer (center).

By Sue Zalokar, Staff Writer

When The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion formed in New York City in the early ‘90s, it was like they threw a bomb in the middle of the indie-rock and blues-punk scene — a non-lethal bomb with no bass. The combination of a cacophony of distorted guitars of Jon Spencer and Judah Bauer, the driving, syncopated beats of Russell Simins and the eerie sounds of the Theremin set the stage for a band that would forever be emblazoned in the minds and hearts of an audience that would follow them on their 20 year journey.

Make no mistake, were it not for the pioneering of these three visionaries, the road to fame might have been more rocky for the bands that would follow their lead:  Sleater-Kinney, The White Stripes and The Black Keys to name a few. Continue reading

Charles makes a Turkey dinner for fellow vendors on the streets

by Cole Merkel

Street Roots vendor Charles Yost started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the Street Roots vendors yesterday afternoon at around 4pm. This morning, he woke up at 5:30 to put the turkey back in the oven to warm it up.

To complete the meal, Charles also steamed fresh green beans with bacon, redskin potatoes with cheddar cheese, a large pan of stuffing and turkey gravy from scratch by creating a roux sauce. He transported the meal to Street Roots in aluminum containers and the black push cart that he has decorated with past issues of Street Roots.

The food was donated by two of Charles’ regular customers who made Charles many lasagna dinner while he was experiencing homelessness. They wanted to make sure folks still living on the streets would have access to a proper Thanksgiving meal. Charles got into housing last December.

“Like last year, the people who bought it were home for Christmas and asked if I could cook and pass out some lasagna dinners so on Christmas morning I was selling papers and they brought the food down and I passed it out. It was the same this year. Tuesday afternoon they called me while I was at Portland State University and asked me to meet them at Safeway. She’d already done the shopping and donated all the food. They had to leave in the morning and I told them I’d help them out again by making dinner.”
Charles worked in restaurants and kitchens for several years before settling in Portland, hence where he learned to cook for an army of Street Roots vendors.
Charles had been homeless on and off more than three decades before getting clean and sober last year. He is one of Street Roots most loved vendors. Read his story here.

Street Roots writing group offers safe place to share

by Cole Merkel, Staff writer

The Street Roots creative writing group has been meeting every Wednesday at 9:15 a.m. for the past year with a simple mission: to create a safe, inclusive space for anyone who wants to join — for one meeting or many — to discover the transformative power of writing. The rules are easy: After reading a selected poem or short story, participants can write whatever they want, even if it doesn’t follow the prompt, and then share their work with the group.

The results have been profound with writers discovering new voice every week through poetry and short stories on subjects ranging from cats to patriotism to the holidays. Each participant brings his or her own unique experience and point of view and uses these perspectives to compose poem and narrative that reflects his or her place in life on a particular day. The group is often a safe place to escape: one hour every week where participants can put aside the harsh realities of living on the streets, enter the open, non-judgmental atmosphere of the Street Roots office and connect human-to-human over the basic, healing power of writing and personal reflection. This page features a sampling of some of the word composed in the group. Continue reading

A Street Roots vendor story (video)

Raymond’s story at Street Roots

Please consider sharing your love of Street Roots and video on social media.

Sex, lies and homelessness

Maggie Lorenz-Todd looks out from the bedroom of her Portland home. “We’re going to do everything and anything we can to not be outside at night. It’s survival.” Photo by Christopher Onstott

By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer

When DeWanna Harris first walked through the doors of Transition Projects five years ago, she was at the end of her rope.

“I was so, so tired of life just tearing me up,” Harris, a Portland native, says. Continue reading

Defending Rachel Corrie: Her parents keep marching on

by Jake Thomas, Staff Writer

Olympia, Wash. is an “All-American City,” according to the sign that greets visitors. It’s also the hometown of Rachel Corrie, who has had a street named after her in  Iran’s capital, a play produced about her life staged on almost every continent, and whose death continues to be a source of controversy.

In 2003, Corrie, a 23-year-old student at Olympia’s Evergreen State College and peace activist, was crushed to death while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in southern Gaza. Following her death, Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, became embroiled in a heated international issue that they had only given passing attention to in the past. The continue today to find answers to why their daughter was slain while trying to gain some sort of accountability from Israel.

In August, an Israeli judge handed down a ruling on the civil lawsuit brought by the Corries against Israel and its Ministry of Defense. The judge absolved Israel of any responsibility for Corrie’s death, ruling that the state couldn’t be held at fault for civilian deaths that occur in conflict areas. The ruling was panned by human rights advocates, who said that it enforced a culture of impunity in the Israeli military while also setting a dangerous precedent that could affect the safety of activists and journalists operating in conflict areas in Israel-Palestine.

Despite the judge’s ruling, questions concerning why and exactly how Rachel Corrie died remain unsettled. Although the court found her death to be an accident, others dispute that finding, arguing that she was intentionally run over. Additionally, the military investigation into Corrie’s death has been widely criticized, even by the State Department under President George Bush, a staunch ally of Israel.

Following the court ruling, the Guardian newspaper called Corrie a “memory that refuses to die.” A play based on her writings, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” continues to be produced, and her parents hope to carry on her work through the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

Street Roots spoke with the Corries about their experience seeking the truth about their daughter’s death, their plans to appeal the court decision and what it’s like having their daughter become an international symbol.

Jake Thomas: You’re preparing to appeal your case to the Israeli Supreme Court. What are you hoping the outcome will be?

Craig Corrie: Well, I think for one thing, the general opinion of the judge was that Rachel was killed as an act of war, and Israel is not responsible for anything it does as an act of war. I think that flies in the face of a whole lot of international law. I think it flies in the face, as a solider in Vietnam, what I was taught our responsibilities were. I think it flies in the face of common decency. I think it makes it particularly problematic for any civilian in a war or conflict area. I think it makes it difficult for journalists, and certainly for Rachel as a human rights observer. So that overarching finding needs to be challenged, and that’s far bigger than Rachel. I think that when you look at what the judge wrote, I think he ignored most of what our attorney did. For instance, he found that the investigation done by the Israeli military police was, I believe, “faultless” when translated into English.

The day after Rachel was killed, President Bush was promised a thorough, credible and transparent investigation by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and it’s still the position of our government that that never happened.

When people came to the witness stand, particularly the person who conducted the investigation, it became amazingly obvious that the investigation was lacking. They found out that there was a camera on the border that was taking video, and they failed to produce all of that video that was available for the day. They claim that it started right as Rachel was killed, and there was no more video. He said that the copy of that video was first given to the officers in charge of the higher echelons of the chain of command, and I think it was one week later that he got a copy of it. Well, other video from that time has been on Israeli TV, it’s been on different documentaries, our government has seen it, we’ve seen it. This guy is testifying that there is no other video, but we don’t have the chain of custody of that video to produce it in court, so that was a particularly appalling piece of it. Continue reading