Tag Archives: Sally Erickson

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

Dignity Village today


Dignity Village has battled through a turbulent past to arrive where it is today. Starting as a group of eight men and women who pitched five tents on public land nearly nine years ago, the village today is a far cry from a tent city that came to symbolize the struggle of people experiencing homelessness — not only in Portland, but around the country.

“I wouldn’t call them a tent city,” says Sally Erickson, who oversees Portland’s 10-year plan to end homelessness with the Bureau of Housing and Community Development. “I would call them a community.”

“I think it has been a social experiment that illustrates what people with little to no resources were able to pull together to create a healthy and functioning community,” says Wendy Kohn of Kwamba Productions, which is putting together a documentary about the group over the past decade.

“At so many points along the way, they could have failed,” Kohn goes on to say. “It could have flamed out and become an example of a group of people trying to do something positive and coming up short — like so many times throughout history. Instead we see, over a ten-year period, a group of people who haven’t failed and are still recreating themselves through a democratic process.”

News organizations around the country reference Dignity Village as a sidenote when they write about the growing number of tent cities in the United States. Typically summed up in a sentence or two, the village is described as a success. To the local public in Portland, however, Dignity Village has seemed fairly quiet — yet that’s a far cry from the truth.

Last year alone, the village had more than 1,000 visitors — mostly housing activists, students, faith-based community members, policy wonks and politicians from five continents and eight countries.

Erickson says she takes calls from all over the country from city governments and other parties interested in the village.

Erickson points them to the Tent City Toolkit, an interactive DVD the village created with Kwamba Productions. The toolkit takes individuals on the streets through the step-by-step process of turning a tent city into a semi-permanent community through direct action. That a city official would promote tent city information at all may mean that even at the government level, our city is more progressive than most.

“I tell them Dignity Village was and is unique,” says Erickson. “It wasn’t like the city just created a tent city. (Dignity Village) fought for everything they have, but they also created a non-profit after realizing the political dynamics involved and overcame many obstacles. Dignity Village should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Kohn agrees. She says Portland is lucky to have had the personalities on the streets that it did when the village was born.

“(The organizers) were politically and socially sophisticated,” says Kohn. “After the city realized they weren’t going away under any circumstances, (the city) began to create an absence of barriers, so to speak, and waited to see if the village would fail or be successful. Today there’s a new generation carrying that same spirit on and (they) are doing remarkably well.” Continue reading

Sight Unseen: City’s count of people on the street finds some, but misses the broad scope of modern homeless demographics


By Mara Grunbaum, Staff Writer

Want to fill out a survey?” asked outreach worker Brandon Schwanz of a young man on a bench outside the downtown library. “It’s so we can get an idea of how many people are homeless in the city.”

The kid laughed.

“Good luck!”

The streets may be a statistician’s nightmare. Still, every two years, Portland conducts the One Night Street Count to try to quantify the city’s homeless population. Over the last week of January, outreach workers surveyed people they found on streets, under bridges, in parks and in campgrounds. Social-service providers surveyed their clients. The one-page street count form collects demographic data and the answer to one primary question: Where did you, or where will you, spend the night of Wednesday, Jan. 28?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates the street count, and the simultaneous One Night Shelter Count, from any community that receives federal funding for housing and social service programs. The counts also give local policymakers feedback on how well their 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness is working.

The last Portland street count, in 2007, found 1,438 people sleeping outside. The shelter count, which is administered by Multnomah County, found 3,018 people in shelters, transitional housing or emergency rent assistance programs.

Schwanz works for Yellow Brick Road, an outreach team that targets Portland’s homeless youth. The evening of Jan. 27, he and two other outreach workers took street count surveys on their regular tour of downtown. None of them had given the survey before.

“It’s going to be awkward,” Schwanz predicted.

Continue reading

Full story: Making a pitch for tents

(Story from June 27 issue) By Amanda Waldroupe

One of the reverberating aftershocks of the three-week-long homeless protest outside City Hall is the question of whether Portland needs another “tent city” to solve the problem of homelessness.

“It’s necessary because of the amount of poor people who need a place to be other than outside,” says Larry Reynolds, one of the protest’s leaders.

The resolve and desire may exist at the street level, but another question begs raising: is there the support among the people who can actually make another tent city happen?

“There’s a million other questions I would ask,” says Mark Lakeman, the founder of the City Repair Project and the architect and designer of Dignity Village.

“Shall people be engaged in converting their own problems into their own solutions? Shall a group of people living in streets see themselves as having value? Can they contribute to the world? Of course,” he says.

Continue reading

Housing puzzle: New Street Roots on the streets tomorrow

(July 10) With a new housing commissioner, mayor and City Council on the horizon, Portland’s affordable housing developers decided in January that it was time to start looking at their operations in a new light. Six months later, five major housing development entities within the Portland area are undergoing a collaborative evaluation: the Housing Authority of Portland, the Bureau of Housing and Community Development, the Portland Development Commission, Gresham city government and Multnomah County.

The evaluation is being overseen by the Seattle firm Clegg and Associates and is being called the Clegg Report. The report may radically change the way business is done on the front lines of homelessness and affordable housing and is do out in August. Contributing reporter Anthony Schick has the scoop.

Two area attorneys gear up to challenge Portland’s controversial Sidewalk Obstruction Ordinance (sit-lie), Randy Leonard and the Bureau of Housing and Community Development butt heads over shelter beds, and Sally Erickson is named the new head of the Portland’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

All of this and much more in the new edition of Street Roots hitting the streets tomorrow.

Posted by Israel Bayer