Tag Archives: Mara Grunbaum

Best SR photos of 2009

Street Roots  has some of the best photographers in the city. The newspaper is lucky to have an all volunteer, all-star tandem of  award winning shooters, like Leah Nash, Ken Hawkins, John Ryan Brubaker, and Elizabeth Schwartz. They have dedicated their knowledge, skills and compassion to accompany some of the most hard hitting news stories in the city this year. Here, we look at some of the best shots of 2009, in no particular order. Enjoy.

Mult. County Commissioner Ted Wheeler talks with Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl in July about Urban Renewal Areas in an article titled Balancing Act. Photo by Leah Nash.

Street Roots highlights African immigrants who face cultural isolation in Portland. Mara Grunbaum reports. In this photo a family from Somalia pray together. Photo by Ken Hawkins.

Street Roots writes an in-depth piece on the return of heroin on Portland’s streets in Return of the Dragon. Here a 27-year old man shoots heroin near I-5 in SW Portland. Amanda Waldroupe reports. Photo by Ken Hawkins. Continue reading

Living between two worlds: African refugees battle cultural isolation as they try to adapt to their new home in Portland


From the August 7 edition of Street Roots. 

On a toasty Tuesday afternoon, Suleqa Ismail wears the trademarks of two different continents: her dark, shoulder-length headscarf reflects the tradition of her native Somalia, while the purse she carries — white with a sequined Minnie Mouse appliqué — is classic American. The split runs through her family, too: The oldest of Ismail’s four children, 9-year-old daughter Fartun, was born in Africa, but her 17-month-old son, Fuad, is a stateside native.

There’s even some ambivalence to her experience in the United States. Although Ismail and her husband, Saleman Adan, are infinitely grateful that they were able to leave war-plagued Somalia and come here as refugees four years ago, the challenges they’ve faced since have made their transition less than smooth. They’re one of many African families in Portland who’ve run across serious housing hurdles since arriving in the U.S.

Since January of 2007, Ismail and Adan have lived with their children at the New Columbia, the Housing Authority of Portland’s sprawling low-income housing complex in North Portland. They pay a third of their income for rent, which was adjusted down when Adan was laid off from his job with a rental car company in February of last year.

This spring, they received a letter stating that the clutter in their yard was in violation of their lease, but because they can’t read English and speak only a Somali dialect called Maay Maay, they didn’t realize the notice was important, and it was forgotten.

In July, to their surprise, Ismail and Adan received a final eviction notice. The couple was baffled. Continue reading

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aug0709page1Journalism is the first rough draft of history, a famous publisher once said. Get a leg up on the future and buy a copy of Street Roots first thing tomorrow. Your friendly neighborhood vendor will thank you! Here’s what’s making history on our pages this week:

Living between two worlds: Mara Grunbaum reports on how African refugees battle cultural isolation as they try to adapt to their new home in Portland.

Feds extend $30 million to staunch Section 8 bleeding: The latest in a string of reports about the fallout from housing assistance cuts in Northwest Oregon and beyond. Joanne Zuhl reports.

Street papers lay foundation for stronger movement: Israel Bayer writes on the 2009 conference of the North American Street Newspaper Association and the leadership role Street Roots has taken in this remarkable movement.

Good money after bad: Seattle puts $8 million behind grassroots initiatives to stop youth violence on the streets. This is one of two stories inside this edition that looks at the state of youths on the streets in America.

Addicts Almanac: Tye Doudy continues his series on life on the streets of Portland, living through addiction and learning to survive.

And check out new columns from Leo Rhodes, our vendor in the Northeast, and the Mental Health Association of Portland. Page after page, this issue is just packed! And still just a buck.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Copy editors discuss (foul) language today in office


From left to right, Eddy Barbosa, Cassandra Koslen, Mary Pacios, Art Garcia, Mara Grunbaum, Ruth Kovacs. The word is question was motherf*cker. After much debate, it was decided that it is one word, and in certain settings could be spelled as muthaf*cker.

Veterans arriving on the streets not who you think

Rick Stoller

(Rick Stoller, who directs the Harbor Lights shelter, says it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find appropriate affordable housing for veterans.)

Shock Waves from the May 29 edition of Street Roots

It’s a warm, still May afternoon as people mill around the curb outside a downtown shelter, and Tyrone Brown, a fiery Vietnam veteran with a baseball cap and greying goatee, is pissed off.
“We got this country free,” he says, gesturing toward other veterans who are staying in the Glisan Street Shelter or, like him, waiting for a space in it. “What are we doing being homeless?”

Veterans have long been a large segment of the U.S. homeless population. There are no perfect estimates of how many veterans are on the streets, but by several accounts, the number is on the rise — especially for older veterans like Brown.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates that there are 2,042 veterans experiencing homelessness on any given night in the Portland service area, which includes Vancouver. That’s up from 1,790 in 2006.

Portland’s One Night Street Count, which surveys people who were homeless on a given night in January, found 192 veterans this year compared with 108 in 2007. The jump far outpaces the increase in the overall street count, which only grew by about 10 percent.

Though some of those new to the streets are younger veterans recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, the vast majority are 45 and older. Roughly a quarter said they’d been homeless for less than one year. Older veterans were becoming new to the streets.

John Means of Central City Concern’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project says their employment program is seeing more and more clients who are new to the streets. Two years ago, Means says, most of their clients were veterans considered chronically homeless, and they’d see the same people come back multiple times.

“Over the last year, maybe year and a half, newer people have come in,” Means says. “Now we’re getting a lot of people (who are) six months, seven months, eight months homeless.”

For Larry, a 48-year-old Marine Corps veteran who didn’t want his last name used, construction work dried up. Then he was laid off from a factory job. He recently found work picking up trash at the waterfront for the Rose Festival, but he was fired when his employer ran a background check and found a 20-year-old felony assault conviction.

“Evidently there’s a problem picking up trash at the Rose Festival for felons,” Larry said. “It’s never gotten in my way at all, but now with the economy the way it is, people are pickier.” Continue reading

Street Roots wins honors from Society of Professional Journalists

Street Roots writers Mara Grunbaum, Tye Doudy and Joanne Zuhl  took home honors from the Oregon and Southwest Washington Society of Professional Journalists May 30. The event honors journalistic achievements of 2008.

Mara Grunbaum received the second place award in the News Feature category for “Rest in peace, and dignity,” a report on work to preserve the memory of Hawthorne Asylum patients buried in unmarked graves in Lone Fir Cemetery. The package of stories not only looked at the memory of the Hawthorne Asylum, but also society’s changing view of mental illness.

Tye Doudy was awarded second place for general columns for his highly personal series of columns called “Addicts Almanac.” The seven-part series gave Portlanders an eye-opening tour of their city through the life of a heroin addict.

Joanne Zuhl received third place honors for social issues reporting for her piece “In need of a New Deal,” a report on the obstacles facing affordable housing developers following the economic collapse. The report was part of a Special Edition of Street Roots that navigated the maze of affordable housing.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper, competed in the non-daily category for papers with 8,000 circulation or less.

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May2909page1Quick! Grab your Street Roots and head to the park! Summer time is here and it always seems to vanish before we really get to enjoy it. Your vendor knows it too, and they all have their summer sales hats on, with new papers in hand starting Friday morning. Here’s what’s on tap:

Shock waves: The number of veterans hittings the streets is on the rise- but not necessarily who you might expect. Older veterans, from conflicts long past, are falling through the cracks now widened by even more wars and economic priorities. Mara Grunbaum reports.

Community’s heart for Vision into Action beats loud and clear: The city pulled the financial plug on Visions into Action, but people are rallying to spread the word on how important the cultural empowerment program is to Portland’s minority communities. Rebecca Robinson reports.

Out and down: After serving time, many former inmates find that the real trial begins upon release.

The Latino Obama?: Rafael Correa won a landslide second term as president of Ecuador in a “citizens’ revolution,” but he faces huge challenges in realizing his election manifesto and placating a demanding electorate.

The paper is just packed, but it doesn’t hang around long.  When they’re gone – they’re gone. Just like summer!

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Enviros charge up to challenge coal


Cesia Kearns and Robin Everett with Oregon’s Sierra Club.

From the May 15 edition of Street Roots

Cesia Kearns and Robin Everett came to Oregon with a purpose: to scrub the state clean of coal power. Coal-burning plants provide about half of the country’s energy — in Oregon it’s just over 40 percent. Though it’s relatively abundant in the U.S. and often costs less than other energy sources, burning coal releases high levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The Sierra Club hopes to see more renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, take the place of coal nationwide.

Though they’re new to Portland, both Everett and Kearns have a history of environmental activism. Everett started as a volunteer for the Sierra Club and has worked for the organization for two years, most recently helping to fight the planned construction of a toll road through a state park in California. After a lengthy legal battle, the project was blocked in December.

Kearns worked for over four years for the Sierra Club in Minneapolis, where she focused on energy issues. Among other projects, she worked to prevent the expansion of the Big Stone coal plant on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. That proposal is still up in the air.

Trying to reshape Oregon’s energy picture will take time, but Kearns and Everett have an immediate agenda too.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed that the emissions that cause climate change — carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases — directly threaten human health and safety. That may not seem like breaking news to entrenched environmentalists, but if the EPA’s findings are adopted, the agency would have authority to regulate the gases more strictly as pollutants.

Before the proposal can move forward, the EPA is holding two public hearings, where they will take comments on their plan. One hearing will take place in Arlington, Va., on May 18, and the other will be in Seattle on May 21. Kearns and Everett hope to bring busloads of Oregonians to the Seattle hearing to testify and rally in support of the EPA’s plan.

Everett and Kearns recently sat down with Street Roots to discuss their coal campaign and the atmosphere for environmentalism today. Continue reading

Immigrant workers face extremes of economic crisis


Published in the May 1 edition of Street Roots

Growing up in the riverfront manufacturing town of St. Helens, Yesenia Sanchez knew only a handful of other Latino families. Born in Oregon to Mexican immigrant parents, she was one of the only non-white students in her class. Still, she says, she was never aware of any significant racial tension.

That changed last year, when economic troubles stirred political unrest, which in turn brought animosity bubbling to the surface.

Columbia County, where St. Helens is located, has a small but fairly settled Latino community. Some, like Sanchez, are citizens, some are legal residents, and others are undocumented immigrants.
In November, Columbia County voters passed a ballot initiative to penalize businesses that employed undocumented workers with a $10,000 fine or revocation of their business license. Another measure, which was voted down, would have required construction sites to display large signs declaring them for legal workers only. Latinos in the community, regardless of their immigration status, felt targeted.

“I’d never really experienced overt racism, or at least not that I can remember,” says Sanchez, now a college student at the University of Oregon in Eugene. “I never thought that part of my community wanted to essentially kick me out — didn’t want me there, my family there.”

Columbia County isn’t the only place Latinos are feeling the pressures of the recession in full force.

Oregon is home to almost 400,000 Latinos, most from Mexico. Their median income in 2007 was just over $18,000 per person a year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center; the average for Oregon is about $25,000. Latinos were already more likely than other Oregonians to live in poverty and less likely to own their own homes.

Continue reading

Talking food in the new world


By Mara Grunbaum
Staff Writer

What does the word “hunger” call to mind? A malnourished child in a third-world country? An unemployed man in a tattered coat standing in a Depression-era breadline? How about a mother working two jobs and struggling with obesity?
Though few Americans actually starve, more than one in ten experience what the government calls “food insecurity,” meaning they don’t always know where their meals will come from, or the food they do obtain isn’t nutritious enough to keep them healthy. Most of them are working parents, children, seniors or people with disabilities.

Joel Berg has been working to change that for decades. An activist since high school, he became interested in hunger issues as an Americorps volunteer. He worked as a policy analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute before joining the Clinton administration in 1993. For eight years, Berg held a variety of senior positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he led programs to improve community food security and increase food recovery and gleaning.

Since 2001, Berg has directed the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, which advocates for anti-hunger legislation and policy. In his recent book, All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America, Berg talks about the history of hunger in America, the policies that shape it now, and what we can do to fix it — for less than it’s costing us already.
Continue reading

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may0109page11Tomorrow is May Day and Street Roots is marking the day and with a package of stories reflecting on the immigrant labor experience during these remarkable times. It’s the perfect read before or after the march, or on Saturday morning over coffee, or Sunday after the morning spin. It’s all waiting for you Friday morning in the welcoming hands of your trusted neighborhood vendor. Here’s a preview of what’s inside:

The Raid: Two years after a devastating raid at the Del Monte plant in Portland, the women who came together to survive the aftermath push for greater understanding of the immigrant experience. Guest writer Robin Schauffler reports, along with featured artwork by Adam Arms.

Immigrant workers face extremes of economic crisis: Some of the lowest-wage workers face being blamed
for the economic downturn as they struggle to survive it. Mara Grunbaum and Joanne Zuhl report.

Squatters rights in the age of foreclosures: Cassandra Koslen interviews Max Rameau while he tours Portland talking about his work in Miami to connect the rising numbers of homeless families with the rising numbers of  empty houses.

Not like the others: An interview with Jay Cowen, a friend of Hunter S. Thompson who has released a new book on the famous writer.

The economics of happiness: It’s not as much about what you have, as what other people don’t have.

Plus, updates on the sit-lie debate in City Council, commentary from Washington County, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, and a great picture of Vance Schweigert, our vendor profile for this edition. A big thank you to all our volunteers who make the paper possible (and awesome!). Stop by your vendor and say hello, toss a smile and pick up the latest Street Roots. As always, we love to hear from you on our blog, or at streetroots@email.com.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

More cases added in challenge to secret police list

From the March 20 edition of Street Roots.

Lawyers challenging the Portland Police Bureau’s downtown crime enforcement strategy have added two more cases in their argument that the bureau’s policy is unconstitutional. The cases were added to the legal challenge on March 11 before Multnomah County Judge Dale Koch.

As the judge prepares to make a ruling, the city is seeking to expand the program to more Portland neighborhoods.

The city says the Neighborhood Livability Crime Enforcement Program (NLCEP) provides housing and addiction treatment for chronic troublemakers who wouldn’t otherwise get help. The police bureau works directly with the district attorney, parole and probation officers, and housing and addiction treatment providers to try to move offenders off the street and into supportive services. Officials cite an 80 percent drop in recidivism in the NLCEP area since the program’s advent in 2003. Continue reading

Cambodian community talks about troubled past, looks to the future


It’s been three decades since the Khmer Rouge killing fields, and Sochanny Meng still has nightmares. Meng, 49, came to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia, where between 1975 and 1979 the brutal Khmer Rouge regime killed 1.7 million people – one-fifth of the country’s population – through overwork, starvation, torture and execution.

“Why my people killed my people like that … I don’t understand that,” says Meng, whose mother was executed by the Khmer Rouge. “I still don’t understand.”

In April, Meng will sit down in front of a camera for an interview about his past. What happened to him in Cambodia? What did he see? How did he survive? His questioners won’t be historians, reporters or documentarians but his American-born sons, 20 year-old twins Kenny and Jimmy.

The family is part of an oral history documentary project organized by the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO). With $60,000 in grants from the Northwest Health Foundation and Vision into Action, CACO is training Cambodian-American youths to interview their own parents and grandparents about their experiences under the Khmer Rouge. The interviews will be filmed and compiled into a 20-minute documentary, which will screen for the community and the public in August.

CACO President Mardine Mao says many of the community’s elders have rarely – if ever – spoken about their history before. Instead, they try their hardest to bury the painful memories.

“We feel like our younger generation don’t know much (about what happened), because their parents don’t tell them,” Mao says. “We’re asking them, basically, to open up a can of worms.”

The Khmer Rouge rose to power in Cambodia after years of guerilla warfare, aggravated by spillover from the U.S. campaign in Vietnam. Led by Pol Pot, the totalitarian regime imposed a radical system of agrarian communism, forcing millions of people out of cities and into farm labor camps. Children were separated from their families to be indoctrinated, put to work and sometimes trained as child soldiers. People who were educated, in ethnic minorities, religious or accused of disagreeing with the ruling party were tortured and killed.

Oregon and Southwest Washington are home to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Cambodian-Americans, many of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge years and came here as refugees in the early 1980s. Mao says many people in the community are still plagued by nightmares and post-traumatic stress – they may have stomachaches they can’t explain, or mistake celebratory fireworks for wartime bombs.

Between wariness of Western doctors and the stigma associated with mental health issues, many Cambodian-Americans are reluctant to seek treatment, according to Leakhena Nou, a sociology professor at California State University in Long Beach. Nou has studied Cambodian populations in both the U.S. and Cambodia.

Instead, emotional distress often manifests in other ways. Nou says Cambodian-Americans have high rates of diabetes and stroke, as well as problems with drug addiction, alcoholism and family violence.

“There are lingering effects of this trauma,” Nou says. “When you cut yourself, a deep cut, and there’s a scar – no matter what you try to do, the scar remains. That’s how I see the state of mind for the Cambodians.”

Mao hopes the oral history project will accomplish three things: raise public awareness of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, help Cambodian-American youth understand where their families came from, and give Khmer Rouge survivors some catharsis so the community can begin to mend.

“The process of talking itself, the process of hearing the story – it’s a healing process,” Mao says.

Of course, remembering can be traumatic in itself. Nou says that some refugees are afraid to tell their stories, especially in public forums, because “there is still a real fear that the Khmer Rouge will come back and harm them.”

Continue reading

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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!

Mental health care funds left behind in the recovery

In February, Chris Bouneff got a phone call from a man whose wife has bipolar disorder. She had been managing it well with private health care, the caller said, but then the couple both lost their jobs, and their insurance was about to lapse. He wanted to know where else they could go for the mental health services his wife needed.

“He’s calling, saying, ‘What do I do?'” recounted Bouneff, who is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Oregon branch. “What do you say to someone like that? ‘Sorry’?”

Continue reading