by Kaisa Crow, Contributing Writer
Buy a copy of Street Roots from vendor John Michael Christian if you are passing by Southwest Sixth and Salmon outside of Starbucks, or, some mornings, if you find yourself leaving Great Harvest Bread at Southwest Second and Yamhill. The least you’ll get is the paper, but if you have a few more minutes, you can get a lot more. John Michael, although he doesn’t take to labeling himself, is an artist, a writer, a teacher and spiritual guide, whose own life is reflected and expanded in a message of love and compassion that he wants to share with others.
That message is so ready to be shared that when I arrived late to our interview, it felt suddenly as if I had tuned in late to “This American Life” and was scrambling excitedly to put together what I had already missed in Part I. Tall in stature and slightly flaired in dress, John wore a blue stocking cap, a cross necklace layered over a rosary, and donned painted red fingernails, which appeared both calculated and cursory at the same time. We attempted to go for a walk, which lasted only a block before I found myself simply leaning against a lamppost, listening intently to both his personal story as well as his life philosophies, which he collects in a working tome titled, “Hobo Metaphysics.” Continue reading
By Kaisa Crow, Contributing Writer
My morning with Street Roots vendor Raymond felt more like a casual stroll through Southwest Portland with a new pal than an interview. Our walk started at the Street Roots office at Northwest Second Avenue and Davis Street and took us to Southwest Sixth Avenue and Main, where Ray sells papers some mornings. It was made longer by the fact that we both became distracted in conversation and briefly were lost.
Taking the long route didn’t bother Raymond at all, he prefers walking anyway and doesn’t take to staying in one spot all day. And although neither of us had our eye on Main, Raymond did keep an eye on potential customers and sales he could make as we traveled. This laid-back attitude is more of Raymond’s style.
A lanky redhead standing well over 6 feet, Raymond speaks with a mixed southern drawl that supports his approachable and friendly vibe. He has been selling Street Roots for more than two months now, and he likes it. He says it gives him something to do, and he is impressed with how well received the paper is in the community. He describes himself as bashful, but by the end of our conversation I think a more appropriate adjective might be “humble.” He calls himself “a hillbilly lost in the city” even though he traverses the streets with comfort, and he has a positive outlook about selling papers and meeting people, preferring to be a source of positive rather than negative energy. “I figure attitude can rub off; Sometimes it takes just one word to bring someone down. I don’t want to be the one to cause that. I’d rather uplift somebody.” Continue reading
Vendor Joey Ponzio is on his way back East to restore his life after experiencing homelessness the past year. This was a note he left Street Roots.
To my friends at Street Roots:
I will miss you all, and I’d like to thank Street Roots for the transformation of my life.
When there was no employment, Street Roots was there for me. At first, when I started working, I was embarrassed to let people know me, see me selling papers. But then I realized there was nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, I started taking pride in what I was doing and what Street Roots was doing for me.
Street Roots was restoring me, getting me back into the work force. And, with employment at Street Roots, I started feeling good about myself. I was making money and providing for myself again. I was proud of what I was doing and no longer ashamed.
In fact, I met some really good people while working for Street Roots: both customers and fellow employees. There are too many to start naming.
Street Roots for me was shelter when I had none; employment when there was none; even a friend when there was no one. I don’t know what I would have done if Street Roots wasn’t here or there!
Thanks to all of Street Roots. I will truly miss you all.