Tag Archives: Vendor corner

Vendor corner: Darren Alexander

Darren Alexander moved back to Portland in 2003 after two years away. Only it wasn’t the same town he left. It was, as he said, a little bit meaner. There had been the murder of a homeless woman on the Steel Bridge. There had been the death of Kendra James at the hands of police, and a feeling that things were simply less friendly than when he had left just two years before.

So Darren works on his own world, the world of an artist and a writer, a volunteer in his community, and an avid reader and student of his surroundings. And, when he’s not doing all of the above, you’ll find him selling Street Roots at NE 15th and Alberta at the Alberta Co-op.

But the arts are his first love.

“I’m still working on artwork, taking art classes on Tuesday mornings and Thursday nights,” Darren says. “I’ve dabbled in it for years. When I was growing up, I wanted to be an architect, of all things. I drew buildings.”

Several of Darren’s works were featured in a 2008 exhibit at Warner Pacific College from artists at Julia West House, the homeless day and counseling center where Darren volunteers monitoring the shower schedule and computer use. It’s also where he takes his art courses. Some of the work sold, but what he’d really like to do is make money off of his writing — television screenplays for dark comedies and dramas. And he diligently keeps a daily journal.

“Most of it is what’s going on in my mind, and some it’s planning — for the day, for the month; future plans like attending film production classes. I want to work behind the scenes.”

This past October, Darren joined a group of volunteers with the Presbyterian Disaster Resistance and traveled to New Orleans to help in the ongoing recovery of the neighborhoods there. He worked with a crew helping replace a roof on a resident’s home.

“Five years after the disaster, people are still trying to get things together,” says Darren, who used to live in New Orleans and found the return rewarding. “It was starting to look better, it’s still a work in progress, obviously.”

Times are tough here, too, as Darren has experienced firsthand. Temporary work and selling the paper help get him by, but there are nights outside as well. And there are always the new faces at Julia West House and Street Roots.

Not long ago, Darren attended the Humanity in Perspective program, run by Oregon Humanities and Reed College. It’s a full academic year studying the Greek classics in the fall and contemporary American figures in the spring.

“One of my favorite pieces we did in the fall was read “Antigone,” plus I watched the play at Reed College’s Cerf Amphitheatre. I came away learning that I could do my part to help make things better, and also have a better appreciation of the classics.”

Vendor corner: Home, sweet home, is a family affair


From the August 7 edition of Street Roots. 

Oftentimes, we here at the paper refer to Street Roots as a family; contributing members, bound together by a common thread.

I have been volunteering at Street Roots for over a year and a half and may still only have a cursory understanding of all the different aspects of the paper’s multi-faceted gene pool.  There are many reasons why every one of us — from vendor to reader to volunteer — interacts with Street Roots. One of the most important is the basic idea that to be a part of Street Roots is to strive for something better.

Marshall and Julie Worley think so. They became vendors together in February. Selling the paper is beneficial for more than a means of income, and Marshall is happy to discuss it. In fact, he’s happy about a lot of things these days. Continue reading

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