Street Roots

for those who cannot afford free speech

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Street Roots creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty by producing a newspaper and other media that are catalysts for individual and social change.

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Updated: 20 min ago

A view to a bipolar life: ‘Photography is part of my escape’

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:04
Chazzi Davis, an Oklahoma street paper vendor, says his art is therapeutic

Chazzi Davis lives with bipolar disorder. Twenty years ago, he lost everything due to his mental health issues. He can never have his old life back but has found that taking abstract photos has become like therapy. Chazzi is also a street paper vendor, selling The Curbside Chronicle in Oklahoma City, where he lives. But his story resonates with anyone, anywhere, struggling with mental health.

Ranya Forgotson: How did you get into photography?

Rachel Griffiths: A path rooted in social justice

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:01
“Six Feet Under” actress Rachel Griffiths has this to say to her 16-year-old self:

When I was 16, I was drinking too much and killing far too many brain cells. It’s so frightening as your own children approach that age, knowing what you got up to – the self-destructive behavior, the self-loathing and the risk-taking behavior. I think we understand now that at that age there are even more challenges and you take risks that aren’t great. But I think my 16-year-old self would now say I’m really awesome. I think she would be hugely relieved that things ended up pretty OK.

Street Roots vendor profile: A life of compassion

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:49
'Our lives have been difficult,' Loretta says, 'but I feel like a stronger person'

Compassion is a basic value for Loretta H. And now that Loretta is facing struggles herself, some of that compassion is returning to her through friends, her sister and Street Roots.

“We’ve had people live with us for months when they were in a difficult situation,” Loretta said. “That was a value growing up and in our family.”

Loretta and her husband, Andy, lived a comfortable life in Los Angeles for 25 years.

'Writing to Save a Life': The Louis Till file

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:35
John Edgar Wideman’s new book explores the injustice delivered to Emmett Till’s father

The tragic story of Emmett Till still shocks the conscience of our nation. It was the summer of 1955. Fourteen years of age, Emmett was a good natured black adolescent from Chicago. He traveled by train to visit family in rural Mississippi. It was his first time in the Deep South, a far cry from the northern city of his origin. His mother Mamie was nervous about her son’s journey. Just before departure Emmett gave her his watch. He doubted he would need it where he was headed. Emmett did keep the ring on his finger. It was his late father Louis Till’s ring.

The mysterious street artist Gats: A glimpse behind the mask

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:01
A new mural in Northwest Portland is the work of Gats. In a rare interview, he tells Street Roots why he covertly creates public art.

It isn’t every day that a phantom comes to Portland.

Gats, or Graffiti Against the System, is a mysterious street artist known for the ubiquitous mask he paints across the country – especially in the mossy underbelly of the West Coast. 

Gats says the mask represents anonymity – the only way to survive in a society bent on police surveilleance.

No one has ever seen the face behind the mask, yet Gats’ public art may be among the best known on the West Coast – and has won him international acclaim as an icon for graffiti. 

Fact vs. fiction: Immigration

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:55
Street Roots separates facts from falsehoods on issues that matter

Fiction: Being in the United States unlawfully is a crime.

Editorial cartoon: April 21, 2017

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:40

Elizabeth Considine — the creator of Street Roots' editorial cartoon, Sheeptoast — was born in Portland and has been drawing since she could hold a pen. She loves theater, poetry, chickens, growing food, and walking her three dogs in the park. “I find inspiration in the strangeness of life and the character of human nature. I hope my art will inspire contemplation, curiosity and an odd thought or two.”

(Click or tap the image to enlarge it.)

Easy backyard beekeeping for Oregonians

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 23:00
Forget honeybees; you can be a backyard beekeeper with minimal effort when you host native bees

Backyard beekeeping is big in Portland, but it’s also increasing in popularity worldwide, bee educator Rebekah Golden says.

She teaches classes on how to be a backyard beekeeper at Bee Thinking, a locally owned beekeeping supply store and education center in Southeast Portland.

But she didn’t always like bees. Her entire life, Golden said, she was “quite fearful” of the little pollinators. She originally studied ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona with the intent of studying chimps in Africa.

Buzzworthy: The widely used pesticide that's killing Oregon bees

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:37
Oregon lawmakers killed a bill to restrict neonicotinoids, but could you be doing more to help declining pollinator populations?

In June 2013, an insecticide containing neonicotinoids caused a massive bumblebee die-off at a Target in Wilsonville. The chemical was sprayed to treat linden trees covered with aphids, but the trees were also filled with bumblebees pollinating the blossoms. 

The result was a parking lot covered with the little corpses of an estimated 50,000 bumblebees.

Just a few days later, hundreds more died in Hillsboro, and it was in an area where the same product containing neonicotinoids had been sprayed, only it had been sprayed months earlier. 

Social Security works; don’t let Trump destroy it

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 09:58
COMMENTARY | There are many reasons to dismiss a declaration of crisis

Be afraid, very afraid. There is good reason to fear that President Trump and the Republican Party are out to destroy our Social Security system. 

Social Security is an incredibly popular program. For decades, it has provided a reliable income floor for seniors. We need to prepare to fight for it. 

President Trump and the Republicans failed to achieve one of their top goals: the gutting of the Affordable Care Act. But they have other programs in their sights – one of the biggest and most important is Social Security. 

Street Roots vendor profile: Her dog by her side

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 23:03
'I started taking care of her, and slowly began to take care of myself,' Kim says

If you’ve seen Kim selling Street Roots on the corner of Southwest Ninth and Taylor Street, then chances are you’ve seen her dog, Kobie, as well. The two have been together since Kobie was an 8-week-old puppy, over three years ago.

Around the time she adopted her dog, Kim was able to move into her own apartment thanks to disability assistance and subsidized housing. But before that, she endured a six-year journey through mental illness, addiction and homelessness that she says she couldn’t have emerged from all on her own. 

SR editorial: Let’s end the lethal loophole in Oregon’s gun laws

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 22:50
Allowing abusers to possess firearms — right up until they kill — is unconscionable

It happened again. Another case of domestic violence resulting in a murder. Just this week in San Bernadino, Calif., a man walked into his wife’s place of work – an elementary school – and shot to death her, a student and himself. Another student was injured. He was her husband, he was her abuser, and he had a gun.

Faith, friends put Joseph Park on path out of homelessness

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 20:57
FINDING HOME | From salesman of the year to a struggle with addiction, Joseph found the support he needed

Joseph Park, a slender man with a gray brush cut and an expressive face, talks with his hands and leans forward to make sure his listener is engaged. His life is a study in extremes. We met to talk about that life, and how he, very recently, moved out of chronic homelessness into his own apartment near Providence Park stadium. 

Plant a pollinator garden

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 20:25
You can help declining bee and butterfly species by turning your backyard into a pollinator habitat

Because many bee species native to Oregon are solitary bees with small flying ranges, your backyard could become a haven away from harmful pesticides if you provide continuing floral resources, said Aimée Code, the pesticide program director at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

“Recognizing there are hundreds of species out there, if you build a habitat, they will come. You will see an amazing diversity of pollinators in your yard if you start putting in native plants,” she said. 

Editorial cartoon: April 14, 2017

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 22:18

Elizabeth Considine — the creator of Street Roots' editorial cartoon, Sheeptoast — was born in Portland and has been drawing since she could hold a pen. She loves theater, poetry, chickens, growing food, and walking her three dogs in the park. “I find inspiration in the strangeness of life and the character of human nature. I hope my art will inspire contemplation, curiosity and an odd thought or two.”

(Click or tap the image to enlarge it.)

Director’s Desk: How we can help bridge the gap between our homeless neighbors and the larger public

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 22:12
We can get ahead of the curve on homelessness

Young people grow up understanding that having people experiencing homelessness in their city is simply a fact of life. It’s a sad reality. The truth is mass homelessness hasn’t always existed in American cities. 

Saying that, it exists today and has become a normal part of life for many people living and working in American cities. Portland is no different. People are frustrated. 

Compassion fatigue is real. People believe homelessness can’t be solved. They’ve given up on the idea that government can do anything to stop people from sleeping on our streets. 

Oregon unions stand up to racism, hate

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 22:35
Labor leadership in Portland comes together in defense of targeted communities and immigrant workers

Many activist groups may find their members fall into one school of thought or another, but few organizations represent such varying ideologies among their membership as unions.

Now, as the two outer edges of the political spectrum square off in Oregon, leaders of several local labor organizations are taking a stand against the vitriol that’s been echoing from fringe factions of the far right.

Guns and domestic violence: Oregon's loophole

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 00:13
State lawmakers will consider tightening a law that gives some abusers access to firearms

​Carsen thought she was going to visit an old friend she hadn’t seen in 25 years, then leave for home in a couple of weeks. She arrived in the small town where he lived in April, but it wasn’t until August that she finally managed to escape. 

The first show of violence was a slap in the middle of an argument. Carsen said she planned to leave after that. 

Only he wouldn’t let her leave. He wouldn’t allow her to go to the bathroom alone, much less leave the house without him. He starved her, beat her at the slightest provocation. 

Public forum: Help shape future of Mt. Hood National Forest

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:52
Bark invites Portlanders to free event addressing climate change, forest management

If you live in Portland, chances are you’ve taken a short road trip east to enjoy the splendor of Mt. Hood National Forest. 

This federally managed chunk of Northwest Oregon is where Portlanders get their main source of drinking water. It’s also where they hit the slopes in the winter, and where they go for wine tasting, hiking, swimming, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities.

But how much do most Portlanders know about how these lands are managed?

Nick Fish: We must fund legal services for the poor

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 09:41
COMMENTARY | We believe in justice for all – not just for those who can afford it

"Equal justice under law” is a core value of our nation. But what happens when a victim of domestic violence, or an older adult facing eviction, can’t afford a lawyer? What happens when millions of Americans don’t have access to justice?

We may be about to find out. For more than 40 years, Congress has funded legal services for low-income Americans. President Donald Trump recently proposed to defund the Legal Services Corporation, or LSC. Here’s why it matters to all of us.


Our Friends Speak About Street Roots

Street Roots and its writers and vendors are an invaluable part of our community's fabric. Social justice is only within our grasp only when we all participate in learning about, supporting, and fighting for this mission. Street Roots is a daily reminder, on blocks throughout Portland, that we are all in this together.

- Mara Zepeda, co-founder, Switchboard