Tag Archives: Julie McCurdy

Domestic violence: A zero-possibility addiction

by Julie McCurdy, Contributing Columnist

Looking back, I was addicted to possibilities. I think that kept me locked into a 32-year-long pattern of domestic violence. The names of my partners and a listing of their sins seems far less important to me than unraveling my part in this hideous slide show of bruises, broken promises, and ever-increasing humiliations.

Why do I say that? Because I have spent the better part of the last six months trying to figure out why this keeps coming up in my life, and why I thought it was OK to model this to the people who loved me. Asking someone who loves you to stand with you while someone puts you in bruises is as abusive as getting the bruises, in my opinion. Continue reading

Reflections from the frontlines, armed with empowerment

The Great American TARP Tour was a session of workshops and demonstrations organized by the Western Regional Advocacy Project. Volunteers and staff from Street Roots and Sisters of the Road participated, including Julie McCurdy (right), in the weekend full of events in San Francisco.

By Julie McCurdy, Contributing Writer

It occurred to me in the middle of the Great American TARP Tour in San Francisco last month that this was one of those moments. You know, one of those moments that, years from now, I’ll look back and say, “this was the moment.” This was the moment that the real possibilities of a nationwide movement could actually happen. And it sure did scare the shit right out of me because with possibility comes a whole lot of work and responsibility. Continue reading

On fear and transitioning out of the concrete jungle

By Julie McCurdy

You know, I think the thing that all of us have in common is fear — a thousand unruly forms of it. Wherever we are, there is fear to be faced.

Becoming unhoused turned me feral. That is a fact I live with every single day on the long road back to self sufficiency.

You’re so not gonna believe this (wry grin) but part of the trouble with trying to re-mainstream back into “normal society” is the shame of having become unhoused in the first place. I can only speak for myself in this, but that whole “what-if-they-find-out-I-have-been-unhoused?” comes into my thoughts these days. Because I see the way the expression on peoples faces change when they know. We go from vital, wonderful conversations filled with possibility to stutters and stammers and murmered apologies. Continue reading

Festival of Resistance

Regular Street Roots columnist and Right 2 Survive member Julie McCurdy (she also has a poem and column in the current edition) wanted to invite readers out tomorrow to the Festival of Resistance, a celebration and preparation to take back the rights of people experiencing homelessness. The event will follow the May Day event tomorrow afternoon— which Street Roots is a sponsor of.

Diaries of the Disenfranchised: Optimism is not an early riser

As I sit here perusing the park, several things occur to me.

Number one: Nothing much has changed.

The police, in my opinion, are still getting away with killing unarmed people, as we see from the Aaron Campbell shooting on Jan. 29. Yes, I am sure there is an investigation and the right people will, of course, be brought to justice, but that won’t make Mr. Campbell any less dead, now, will it?

Number two: People I know and love are still being herded like cattle from place to place. Why? Because there is no place where it’s OK for us to be. It’s still wet when it rains and without the ability to put up any kind of shelter, people are still getting sick. Without adequate washing and drying facilities the bedding and the clothing becomes wet dirty and moldy, which adds up to unpaid medical bills. Continue reading

Together, we forge a movement

By Israel Bayer
Street Roots Executive Director

Street Roots, along with allies at Sisters Of The Road and Community Alliance of Tenants, took a monumental road trip to San Francisco for the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s protest where we asked the federal government to adequately fund local communities to tackle the issues of affordable housing and to ensure that city governments uphold the civil rights of individuals on the streets.

Check out the interview with SR vendor George Mayes and Julie McCurdy’s powerful column in this issue of the paper. Both pieces offer a street level perspective of their experience on the road trip and their time in San Francisco.

SR would like to thank Sisters Of The Road for organizing the trip. They funded and coordinated more than 50 individuals to take part in the protest, mostly folks sleeping on the streets. Our groups met up with more than 1,000 people, again, mostly from the streets (which is amazing!) from across the West Coast. We would also like to thank the many organizations that endorsed the action in Portland, covering a broad range of affordable housing, labor and social justice groups.

So you say, what’s in a protest? It does nothing, right? And yes, you are correct. Protesting alone is a waste of time and energy, in my mind. But if you couple this with your own media (a growing street newspaper movement), and well researched and published data, and work to engage the very people whose lives are effected to build a movement, we might be on to something. Continue reading

Cries of solidarity leave this marcher speechless

By Julie McCurdy
Contributing Writer

I was asked the other day by a very well-intentioned woman about the “face” of homelessness. She asked if I could describe a “typical” homeless person. I looked at her and said there’s no such thing, but if I must, then look in the mirror. With her slightly offended look, I touched her hand and smiled, saying, “I wasn’t trying to be unkind, But I am the face of homelessness. That man to your left, sleeping in the doorway, and potentially you, me, we are all the face of homelessness.”

After the conversation, we were both a bit more at ease with each other, relaxed. Which was a good thing, since I didn’t want to be a bitch about it.

The reason I bring this up is because I just finished, not three hours ago, marching in San Francisco for homelessness and housing rights as part of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. You know those experiences in your life that are so powerful and moving, that they render you speechless? This was the WRAP protest for me. It’s certainly a turning point in my life, because now I know that we are the only ones that are going to bring about real change. I know this because I got to see this up close and personal. At one point in the march I was just standing there, tears running down my face, thinking to myself that this is what the people in the Civil Rights movement might have felt during their long march to equality. This very moment, as I write this in a church in Oakland, Calif., with my friends who just marched right alongside me, I am overcome with emotion. What can I say? The majesty of this moment. Continue reading

Women stand together in defense of latest attacks

From the Dec. 25 edition of Street Roots

It isn’t often that I get the opportunity to write about positive things anymore. But here’s the thing. I have recently witnessed my community stand as one and say we’re not gonna tolerate this anymore.

What can I say, watching as people come together to do anything is moving. There have been several attacks in the last couple weeks on homeless women and on sex workers. No, we didn’t go to the police. Why would we? They don’t stand for us.

What we did do was pass out whistles and educate the community about the situation. There are now foot patrols going on, and people are bonding and providing safe places for the single women in this community.

I did write about this, in answer to the women’s response, in the form of an open letter to the perp. Make no mistake: This is not a call to violence. It is a celebration of unity, and it is what we have to say to anyone seeking to victimize people. If it sounds violent, I would remind you that rape and assault are far more violent then this — and the long-lasting effects on the victims are far more painful to live through.

open letter to the perp Continue reading

Help SR name a new column and educate ourselves about racism all in one

In this week’s Street Roots we published a Letter to the Editor, in which an avid reader, and elder from the Watoska Band of Ramanichal took offense to the liberal use of the word gypsy in Street Roots, specifically referring to the column, “The Urban Gypsy’s.”

The column has stirred many emotions over the past year, including a sobering piece about what it’s like to be a woman and become homeless.

The column is written by Julie McCurdy, a woman who is still experiencing homelessness with her dog in the Rose City. She has written a regular column with the newspaper and help break the news story about the police inviting themselves into St. Francis Dining Hall back in October.

When we showed the letter to Julie she immediately took ownership of the liberal use of the word, and said, “Absolutely, let’s change that now.” After thinking on it for a night or two, Julie has come up with the idea of asking SR readers to help name the column.

So, readers, what should Julie call her column? Julie is hoping for your suggestions and would love to introduce the next column under the name readers come up with.

And lastly, both Street Roots, Julie and Soup Can Sam, all give thanks for the letter and apologize for any misgivings.

The Letter to the Editor is below.

I have been an avid reader of your paper for quite some time and like what it stands for.  However, there are quite a few of us in the Romani community that find one thing distressing. One of your columnists calls herself “The Urban Gypsy.” Well according to The World Romani Congress established in 1971, the term Gypsy is racist. So used in improper context, saying Gypsy is similar to the N-word. If you want to know what our culture is about go to the Patrin Web site.

I do not know if your contributor has Romani heritage, but I would appreciate it if she would please stop it.  We have a very rich culture and have endured a lot of discrimination. They used to brush my teeth with hospital soap in school for speaking Romani. I know a Roma who was placed in aboarding school by the government, in a brutal forced assimilation program (similar to what the Native Americans endured).

I’m sure you can reply with some such comeback that so called ‘Urban Gypsies’ are living in the spirit of the Gypsies of old.  Well we are not so easy to understand, as we live by our own laws and understandings; and we are driven by a different force.  So respectfully I request… please do not debase our culture by calling yourselves Gypsies.

Thank You!

Casimire Watoska
Elder, Watoska Band of Ramanichal
Life member Romani against Racism

Posted by Israel Bayer

The Urban Gypsy

From the June 12 edition of Street Roots

I’m sitting here, looking around my city, hard pressed. I still feel that Portland is full of potential and possibilities.

I wait with the patience of a newly awakened predator. For people’s smiles to fade at the sheer numbers of the newly homeless. It breaks my heart to see the innocence leak out of eyes and faces that shouldn’t be here on the street.

Pardon me if I begin to snarl in frustration. I am speaking directly of the mentally challenged that our overloaded system has tossed to the street.

There are several people in my mind’s eye causing this strain of thought. One in particular who is not new to the streets, but was on the day she got there 30 years ago.Let me show you what I saw. First of all, I would have missed her totally without that second glance at the enclave next to the alley. Up close I recognized what caused the strange hesitation in my approach. However, caught in her gaze, I couldn’t very well back up. So we stood for a moment frozen, sizing each other up. There was a surprising strength to her fragility, which was momentarilly reasurring. Her story tumbled out in a sing-song voice, in between bites of stale bagel. Thirty years outside in this heaven and this hell. Her eyes were eerily innocent and detatched as she spoke of sodomy and rape, of laughter and love, like they were the same thing. She crackled but didn’t cry, even when telling me about things that I have only seen in horror movies.

I, on the other hand, wept like a newly widowed woman. Later that night, safe in my solitude, it made me think that maybe sometimes insanity is a mercy. I wept for the woman she was now because the world would never get to see her specific genius, it having been scattered over the concrete streets of Portland’s potential.

Julie McCurdy resides in Portland and is experiencing homelessness with her Italian greyhound, Maggie. She is a regular contributer to Street Roots.