Tag Archives: Israel Bayer

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.


Mayor Sam Adams reflects on his time at City Hall and Portland’s future

by Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Mayor Sam Adams has spent the majority of his life serving the City of Portland. Love him or not, Adams has helped build a foundation for Portland that will last well into the future. Street Roots recently sat down with Mayor Sam Adams for an in-depth, hour-long discussion about his leadership style, technology, poverty, cycling, the police and the future of the city we love.

Israel Bayer: What more are you working on through the end of your term?

Sam Adams: There is a lot. What probably is less known to most folks is that a lot of the projects that my team and I work on take years to come to fruition. Between now and the end of the year there is a lot on the docket because there has been a lot in the hopper for the past three or four years. This includes everything from coming up with a good, solid, meaningful plan to improve the Portland Police Bureau with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division findings, to getting council approval to make it exponentially cheaper for folks who live on gravel or dirt roads in the city to be able to pave their streets. Those are two bookends, but they are big issues, and there is a lot in between.

I.B.: Portland continues to reinvent itself. Where do you see Portland in the next 50-years?

S.A.: We’ve had a chance to put our fingerprints on the next 25 years with the Portland Plan. Portland has to become more prosperous. The strength of our economy does not match, for example, our quality of life. We have to become a more successful and stronger economy. Continue reading

All types of people — one community paper

Street Roots works hard to present the vendors and public with a great newspaper each issue. We work hard to present voices on a variety of issues that touch poverty. People ask me all of the time, what’s the focus of the newspaper? Does Street Roots work to present in the paper people experiencing homelessness, or is it more of a community newspaper? My answer is always the same — both.

Street Roots believes that the changing demographics and highly educated readership in Portland have created a public interested in a broad range of social justice issues. In each edition you will find poetry, artwork and sometimes opinion pieces from people on the streets. You will also find a range of investigative reporting on local issues that matter, as well as with interviews with musicians, authors, experts in a specific field and many others. We do our best to present local politics on issues that affect people experiencing poverty, and how policies and happenings will shape the lives of those we serve. Continue reading

Lose the filters and let the story be told

Director’s Desk, By Israel Bayer

Imagine if social service workers were allowed to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram their experiences (with permission) through the process of getting someone into housing. The systems level approach to social service work that is so hard to communicate to the broader public would be boiled down to narratives and visuals of people’s hardships and successes. It could change public opinion.

It makes more sense to Tweet 100 pictures of people getting an apartment with a key in hand over the course of six months than trying to explain to the public in one shot why $1 million dollars will house 100 people they don’t have any connection with.

There is a generational and technology gap between the leaders and the workers of many nonprofits on the poverty front. Many nonprofits and government institutions are more concerned with controlling a specific message than trusting their workers, or the people they serve to use social media and letting the narratives and visuals speak for themselves.

By not allowing people to share their experiences day-in and day-out, nonprofits working on the poverty front are falling woefully behind. It’s a disservice not only to the people involved in doing the work, but also to the broader public. Thousands of people would instantly feel more connected to helping fight homelessness and to the work non-profits do by understanding the experiences their peers have on the streets.

At the end of the day, what the general public sees is not the stories of poor people. They see the stories of poor people filtered through through the lens of public relations departments and press releases that the media often times reprints verbatim. Having a message is great, but if people aren’t accessing that message and are turned off by the statues quo, what good is it?

Our movement doesn’t have the money to buy the message, and it’s illegal for nonprofits to buy politicians. Open-source technology and social media are tools of social change. Being creative and using these platforms can help level the playing field, while offering people an organic way to engage.

I cringe when some of the smartest minds in our city tell me they can’t access their organization’s social media, or can’t blog about a successful experience on the streets because of their organizational policies. It’s time for non-profits to turn the page and give their workers and people they serve more of a voice in a larger community vision to combat poverty. It’s time for nonprofits on the poverty front to join the 21st century. If you listen closely, there’s a story to be told.

Right 2 Dream Too deserves city leadership

By Israel Bayer

The city should find a way to offer Right 2 Dream Too land to relocate the tent city currently occupying Southwest Fourth and Burnside. The argument that people shouldn’t be living in tents as an alternative to housing doesn’t hold a whole lot of weight when thousands of people are living in unfair conditions under bridges and in doorways every night.

Like Dignity Village, Right 2 Dream Too is an asset to the community. Both groups have found a way to work peer-to-peer with some of the hardest brothers and sisters on the streets, giving people the hope and discipline to have something stable in their lives.

The city subsidizes operating costs for many different groups that work with people experiencing homelessness and poverty. Right 2 Dream Too should not be considered any different. The group has proven to the community that they are organized and have what it takes to create a safe and stable environment for people on the streets.

Right now, the city and Right 2 Dream Too are at loggerheads. The camp is caught in a bitter dispute between the property owner at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside and the city, ultimately leaving the fate of the camp in the hands of Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the Bureau of Development Services.

Commissioner Nick Fish and the Portland Housing Bureau should step in. If Right 2 Dream Too is going to be successful, it’s going to be the leadership of the Portland Housing Bureau that makes it happen.

Right 2 Dream Too has the support of local foundations, organizations such as Street Roots, and many other community members. It’s time for the city to support the group.

In a time of great need, when housing for people experiencing homelessness continues to be one of the biggest challenges in our community, we’re looking to both Right 2 Dream Too and the City of Portland to find a way to do the right thing.

Street Roots: Making change, every day

By Israel Bayer, Executive Director

People tell me all the time how great the vendors are in the community and what a community asset they are for local neighborhoods. They also tell me, often with bewilderment, that the vast amount of the vendors represent themselves very well. Yes, people experiencing poverty do have manners.

We also take our fair share of incident reports on vendor altercations and other random inquiries about individuals and families selling the newspaper. We want to make sure that readers know that we have a Vendor Incident and Feedback form on the SR website at www.streetroots.org. Continue reading

‘Domicile unknown’

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Laurie Crow would have been 54 on Dec. 27, 2011.

Instead, she became one of 47.

Only a few weeks before her birthday, she died curled up in her sleeping bag in a meadow near Going Street. Her partner, Clarence, was next to her, awake and listening as she slept through daybreak.

What he was hearing, in fact, was her body cooling in the December chill. It was Dec. 7.

The other 46 were also homeless, and all died on the streets of Portland in 2011.

Fourty-seven: Nearly 1 a week. Continue reading

Street Roots, Multnomah County release homeless deaths report

This morning, Multnomah County released a new report, co-authored by Street Roots on the number of homeless people who died on the streets last year. The county medical examiner’s office counted 47 men and women died literally on the streets in 2011, and that counts only those who fall within it jurisdiction. The Multnomah County Health Department considers it a subset of people who die homeless, and doesn’t count people who were under medical care at the time of their death, for example.

“This is not what a strong, healthy community looks like,” Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury told reporters at a press conference in the county offices this morning. Street Roots Executive Director Israel Bayer and City Commissioner Nick Fish also spoke on the report. Continue reading

A positive message always wins out

Street Roots is happy to announce we were honored at Northwest Pilot Projects’ (NWPP) annual event this year with a Community Service Award for outstanding achievement and service to Portland’s elderly, homeless and poor.

Since 1969, NWPP has been offering housing and service opportunities for a life of dignity and hope to Portland’s elderly, disabled, and homeless.  Each year, NWPP has successfully housed many Street Roots vendors, and we are indebted to their services. Continue reading

A conversation with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Dan Saltzman is a veteran Portland city commissioner who has been around the block. During his 12-year stint on city council, he has, at various times, taken heat on both sides of the political spectrum for a variety of issues.

People closest to Saltzman say he’s a hard-working, detail-oriented individual that isn’t afraid to buck the system to create change. During his tenure as city commissioner, he has taken on the fire and police disability retirement system and led a successful and on-going children’s levy, to name a few.

Street Roots recently sat down with Saltzman to talk about city politics and the future of Portland.

Israel Bayer: You have been one of the most quiet, yet productive, commissioners over the past 12 years. What have been some of your most challenging times as a commissioner, and some of your proudest moments?

Dan Saltzman: I probably would say that this upcoming budget year and soft economy and how that impacts city governance is probably going to be one of the most challenging. The years I have been on the City Council, it’s not to say we haven’t gone through cuts in the past, but if everything holds up this could be the most dire.

Some of the best times are getting council to support things — working through two efforts to get voters to reform the Charter successively. One was to revamp the fire and police disability and retirement system, which was largely the fox guarding the hen-house, before all the trustees were either fire or police related. Now it’s a five-person board with two union representatives and three citizen representatives. I’m also very proud of being able to be a part of the Children’s Levy and all that has accomplished. Continue reading

Making a dream reality: Right 2 Dream Too’s success flies in the face of skeptics

A rendering of Right 2 Dream Too created by a local architecture firm

by Joanne Zuhl, staff writer (Photos by Israel Bayer)

It was supposed to be about the city’s new plan to allow limited car camping for people experiencing homelessness. But testimony at Wednesday’s City Council meeting became an extended appeal for another camping option, one that’s been, almost unanimously, highly successful for nearly three months.

During more than an hour of testimony, a series of people — many homeless — testified in defense of Right 2 Dream Too, a structured camp at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Burnside that is home to about 70 people experiencing homelessness. Continue reading

Readers give props for SR coverage, vendors

Street Roots’ recent readers survey asked Portlanders to chime in on important issues related to the organization. It was by no means scientific, but it does give us a snapshot of the people who support vendors and read the newspaper. Here is what we found out.

The vast majority of SR readers are college educated, and female. People of all ages support SR, but readers 21-35 have increased dramatically in the past two years since we last did a survey. Sixty-three percent of readers found out about the newspaper through an interaction with a vendor, while another 25 percent found out through a friend or word of mouth. That means by helping spread the word and introducing SR to your peer network, you can make a big difference.

More than 70 percent of those surveyed thought that SR was a window into their community, politically relevant and a strong advocate for people experiencing homelessness. Continue reading

Jenny Conlee’s fight song

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Jenny Conlee is a Portlander through and through. Raised in Stumptown and brought up on classical piano, Conlee developed a love for music at an early age.

Using a variety of musical instruments to improvise the structure of pop and rock songs throughout her career, Conlee has been a staple on the Portland and national music scene, with the accordian, piano, keyboards and as a singer. She played for 10 years with the band Calobo. At the time Conlee thought she would continue with school and eventually settle down to be a music teacher.

That’s when she met Colin Meloy, the front man for the Decemberists. “He was interested in doing music,” says Conlee. “I said, OK, as long as we don’t tour. Two years later we had a record deal, and we were on the road, so that was the end of that.”

Since that time she has also joined forces with Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. Between the Decemberists and the Norway Rats she has played on nine studio albums and toured with both groups.

“It is no accident that most of the music she has been involved with has been successful,” says Casey Neill. “She can get inside a piece of music and something unique just starts happening.”

She is currently in the studio with Casey Neill and the Norway Rats and playing as a member of the ensemble Black Prairie.

In March, Conlee learned she had breast cancer. Now she is in the fight of her life. In May she had a double-mastectomy, and in June started chemotherapy. Street Roots had a chance to sit down with Conlee at a coffee shop in Southeast Portland to talk about music and her fight against cancer.

Israel Bayer: It’s been a crazy year for you. Can you talk about your experience and your journey with the illness and the process you’re going through now?

Jenny Conlee: Getting a diagnosis with cancer is like getting slapped in the face. What it does is stop your life. When you get the diagnosis, everything you had planned to do is thrown out the window. You feel like everything you have worked for is being taken away. Everything is upside down.

I couldn’t go on tour with the band over the summer and that was a big part of my life for me. That’s a really sad part for me. Plus, it was a big part of my income. All of that is very difficult. Your comfort zone is gone. You can’t sleep the same.

You know your health is being taken away; that next week when you go into your first treatment, you’re going to feel like hell. And you’re going to feel like hell until you get through this, and you have no idea how long that will be. You have to grieve and still face each day.

I.B.: Can you give us a time line of what you have been going through?

J.C.: I had a mammogram, and they found cancer in both breasts. I had surgical biopsies on both of them, and it came up positive. So I had a double mastectomy, which means they’re both gone and no reconstruction.  Some people choose to create fake breasts, but it’s a complicated surgery and it takes a long time to heal and I wanted to start playing music as soon as I could. So I’m just as flat as the day I was born. Then a month after that I started chemo for six treatments, three weeks between each.  I’m told I will not have to do radiation, but that I’ll be taking some kind of weird hormonal drugs for up to five years. After all that, it’s a matter of crossing our fingers. Continue reading

A simple equation: We all play a part

By Israel Bayer

The rainy season is upon us, and for people on the streets that means that survival now becomes a matter of life or death. The issue of homelessness for many is an issue of public safety, but in reality, thousands of people sleeping outdoors is an issue of public health.

Some people who are mentally and physically vulnerable and have no access to health care or a roof over their head, will get sick and die this winter. It’s that simple and harsh.

It hasn’t always been like this. Over the past three decades urban environments across the U.S. have experienced a massive rise in people experiencing homelessness. Many would have you believe that it’s because of a person’s individual choices, or simply bad luck — an urban myth that has been perpetuated by years of negative campaigns, ignorance and false assumptions against the homeless. Continue reading

A talk with Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen on what’s wrong, what’s right, and what could be

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

From “Shakedown Street” at Grateful Dead shows to creating the first certified organic bakery in Portland with the Portland Pretzel Company, Jeff Cogen approaches life with a different perspective, and that includes his leadership of the most dynamic county in Oregon.

Today, Cogen is leading by example and has taken on progressive projects at the county including food production, fighting for people experiencing homelessness and poverty, and even taking on the chemical industry.

Street Roots recently sat down with Cogen to talk about politics, his ambitions and issues facing the people of Multnomah County.

Israel Bayer: We hear so much about the dysfunction of government and wasteful spending. Can you talk a little bit about how the county has to overcome this kind of thinking and give some examples of how local governments are working together to improve the region’s quality of life?

Jeff Cogen: The leadership of Multnomah County works really well together right now. Our challenge is letting people know we are working for them, and trying to behave in a way that people can see we are taking actions in a way that builds people’s confidence — especially in this country where we have to rebuild peoples faith in government — because there has frankly been a very organized right-wing campaign to make government the enemy.

Really what government is, is people coming together to take care of their collective needs. I think it’s so important that we get people buying into and understanding that we have it in our capacity, in our own community and as a country, to solve our problems.

I.B.: A lot of average people, the same people on the Barack Obama train three, four years ago, are starting to fall like flies and become disillusioned. How does the average Portlander play a role in moving a conversation forward that government is not bad?

J.C.: That’s a great question, and I don’t have magic answers for this. For me personally, I try to focus on what we are doing locally. I have been really saddened that President Obama’s heartfelt integrity to work with people has been met with very effective cynical attacks.

Regardless of how the president has responded to these negative attacks, I feel like what we have going on in Portland and Multnomah County is reason to believe that, “Yes, we can.” It’s more tangible. And for me I can wrap my hands and head around what’s happening locally, and believe that the decisions we make mean that local government matters. In some ways the most powerful thing we can do is to show the nation a model of government making a difference, government doing positive things, government helping solve our problems. And that’s why I get really fired up to do the work locally. Continue reading