Tag Archives: Elizabeth Schwartz

The life of Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes is a Street Roots vendor, columnist, board member and homeless advocate. His work has been highlighted in the newspaper throughout 2009.

He sells the newspaper almost daily in the Hollywood neighborhood in Northeast and has been a staple at city council meetings and homeless protests over the past year.

His tireless work has led him to work with the Portland Housing Bureau on the 10-year plan to end homelessness and to reform laws targeting individuals on the streets, while being a vendor rep on the Street Roots board of directors.

Elizabeth Schwartz, a local photographer and Street Roots volunteer spent the last five months documenting Leo’s work in the community for a recent photography show at Albina Community Bank about the lives of people who sell the newspaper.

Leo at his vendor location in Hollywood.

Leo showing Housing Commissioner Nick Fish his recent column in Street Roots.

Leo at the Street Roots office with volunteer Becky Mullins and Kreeg Peoples.

Leo speaking at City Council. Continue reading

The people behind the paper

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Street Roots, the Albina Community Bank in the Pearl and some of Portland’s best photographers are teaming up to present a month long exhibit titled “The people behind the paper.”

You are invited to the opening on First Thursday, Nov.5 at 6 p.m. at 430 NW 10th Ave. in the Pearl. (You are also invited to stop by during normal business hours anytime in November to see the show.

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The exhibit features the work of photographers Leah Nash, Ken Hawkins, John Ryan Brubaker, Elizabeth Schwatrz and Mary Edmeades, shot exclusively for Street Roots.

Vendor corner: Customer’s kindness saves a vendor’s life

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From the July 10 edition of Street Roots

Vendors experience generosity from Street Roots customers on a daily basis. It is usually done out of compassion for another human being without any thought of getting something in return. John Alden calls  such giving “paying it forward.”  This vendor profile is a thank you letter to everyone who “pays it forward,” but especially to a man named “Matt,” who helped John on July 1 by giving him $10 for a doctor co-pay.

John had spent three months in Salem this spring helping a disabled friend prepare her house for sale and doing some landscaping. The house sold in mid-June, allowing his friend to move to a handicap accessible apartment.  After the house sold, John returned to Portland and began selling Street Roots outside Starbucks on NW 12th and Glisan.

Even though his corner doesn’t have much traffic, John likes his chosen spot. He gets there around 7:30 a.m. and sells papers for about three hours. Then he goes to the park, a coffee shop, or library and writes his autobiography while resting his legs. He returns to Starbucks about noon and sells his newspapers, picking up just enough money to survive on. Continue reading

Vendor corner: Home away from home in Portland

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Like a lot of us who have lived a while, David Armitage wants to “go home.” He wants to go back to a time, place, and relationships where life was easier.  Although he is from Portland originally, David wants to return to his adopted village in northern Greece. While he prepares to return, he sells Street Roots newspapers because, “it gives me something to do.”

David refuses to succumb to the kinds of depression he sees in some other men who just sit in their rooms and “do nothing.” He reportedly only goes home at night to watch a movie on television and sleep. During the day, he sells Street Roots at the back door of Powell’s, then takes the streetcar to 23rd and Lovejoy and spends most late afternoons sitting in the shade of a tree outside the Lovejoy Grocery store. “I put my newspaper on the table in front of me where people can see them,” he told me. “Then if someone says they want to buy a paper, well, then they can.”

David is a people watcher. He sees students, working people who look stressed out, tourists, politicians, and traffic. Lots of traffic. And road rage. He watches the streetcar go by. He has learned to recognize the streetcar drivers and the mechanics who are called upon when something goes wrong with the trolley. While he watches all this he dreams of his friends and work in Greece where he was the caretaker for a family that owned an orchard outside of Thessalonica. Continue reading

Vendors corner: Leo Rhodes

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Homeless advocate Leo Rhodes moved from Seattle to Portland a couple of months ago to get some rest. He had become so preoccupied with educating people — politicians, journalists and school children  — about homelessness that he wasn’t taking time to eat and sleep properly.

Although some see him as a pillar of strength, Leo complained to me that he is “not Superman.” He told me, without sounding bitter, that others have tried to help, but no one else was “stepping up because he needed a break.” Many people expressed an interest in helping but find that they burn out after only a month or two, Leo said. But they do not have the same passion for the cause that drives Leo.

After talking to Leo for an hour, I came to realize that the ghosts of homeless friends drive him to continue his advocacy work. Continue reading

Roger holds his own

Vendor Profile
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By Elizabeth Schwartz
Contributing Writer
Although he stands under the overhang at Powells’ backdoor on NW 11th and Couch, Roger Moore is not totally protected from the weather. “The wind funnels down through here,” he told me. “The rain blows sideways  sometimes.”

The street corner is a busy place, but few people stop to buy a paper. “This one’s a week old,” Roger explained. When “it first comes out I sell about 30 an hour.” He looks around at all the people walking past. “Today I’ve sold six papers so far.”

Several other people are competing for the public’s attention. Someone has put up a makeshift stand across Couch Street. The sign on the side of the stand reads, “Shutdown the Bailouts.” During my hour on the corner, there is always at least one person reading the literature and talking about the  economy.

“I’ve seen older people stop coming to Powell’s over the past year,” he said. I asked him what he thought the reason was. “They’re budgeting their dollars or they don’t have it,” he replied. He said that most of his customers are between 20 and 40 years old, but he still has a few regulars who are in their 60s.

A young woman approached Roger while we were talking. “I made that guitar player leave,” she told him, referring to a young man who had been playing music nearby. “I told him there’s other corners!” Then she left. Roger smiled. She’s been a regular customer of his for about five years.

Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

march2009page11Smile and the whole world smiles with you! Give it a try, starting with your neighborhood vendor who is always happy to see you. The new paper comes out tomorrow, the first day of spring, and a perfect way celebrate is to pick up your copy hot off the press. Here’s a sneak peak:

Bitter blood: Portland residents who survived the brutal Khmer Rouge regime document their stories in a new oral history project. Mara Grunbaum reports on this remarkable Portland project to capture the voices of a population that lived through the unspeakable.

Reckoning with poverty in Native America: Stacey Ives recounts the trauma of isolation and poverty through the memories of her own youth. It’s a stirring telling of how bigotry and racism can pull the strings of homelessness and poverty.

Northern exposure: Northeast Portland may never be what it once was, but Maxine Fitzpatrick wants to make sure it can once again be a home for everyone. Joanne Zuhl talks with Fitzpatrick, the executive director of a community development corporation that works to improve the livability of Northeast Portland.

Labor pushes for single-payer plan: Tom Leedham, Portland Teamster and chairman of the Taft-Hartley Health Care Trust, talks about the potential, and necessity, of a single-payer, universal health care plan.

The Murnane Wharf: Is it forgetten? Portland author Michael Munk (The Portland Red Guide) writes about the man behind the long-neglected Murnane Wharf near the Burnside Bridge. Francis J. Murnane was a Portland organizer and activist with the longshoreman; the Wharf was named in his honor. But that memory risks being lost to renovations if the city falls back on its promise.

All that, plus a great profile on vendor Jojo Brittain, comments and essays by people in our community, and the best poetry money can buy. And throw in your two cents on our blog, or by writing to the editor at joanne@streetroots.org. We always love hearing from you!

Vendor odyssey at Third and Alder

natthanjunkinNathan Junkin has agreed to let me write about what it is like for him to be schizophrenic and homeless.

I interviewed Nathan on the corner of SW Third Avenue and Alder Street on Ash Wednesday. Pedestrian traffic ebbed and flowed as buses across the street dropped off passengers. When he saw me approach, he took off a glove and shook my hand. “Good to see you,” he said. It was a cool, cloudy morning that began to clear as we talked. He seemed gentle, unassuming, but self-confident.

Nathan was 26 years old when one day, at work, he started hearing voices. He told me the story in brief, unemotional sentences. “I went to the hospital. They gave me medication. The medication made me tired. I lost my job.”

That was nine years ago. The hospital had diagnosed him with schizophrenia. He remains on medication today and has a counselor who checks on him to make sure he is taking it.

“Does she help you figure out how to deal with the voices?” I asked.

Continue reading

A light in the dark: Living outdoors requires some nerve and a few good friends

A Vendor Profile
By Elizabeth Schwartz
Contributing Writer

gimelprofilebw1Gimel Gaiah has been selling Street Roots outside Borders on Southwest 3rd and Morrison for about two months. His customers are primarily MAX riders and Borders Books patrons. He also sells papers to a few people who work in a nearby office building. The bookstore treats Gimel well. They allow him to sell papers near their main door, use their bathroom, and sit and read books when he needs to get warm. Gimel also values the fact that the staff treat him with the same respect they offer other customers. In return, he buys a daily cup of coffee and refills from them.

“I love readers,” the vendor told me. “Readers are different. They have a deeper ear to understanding, are open to listening and talking, and are more patient.” Sometimes Borders patrons purchase a book on drawing and give it to Gimel after noticing him making pen and ink drawings in a little notebook. Others buy him snacks from the bookstore. One man brought him a large bag containing almost anything a homeless man might need: shoes, socks, a tent, and a sleeping bag.

Gimel told me that he does not just sell Street Roots for the money. “People are approaching my loneliness and bringing theirs. I’m not waiting here for the money from selling a paper. I’m waiting here for the people who approach me and give me human contact. The beauty of it is the variety.”

Continue reading