Street Roots

for those who cannot afford free speech

Our Mission

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.

Charles Krossman

 

Charles Krossman is an Oregon native who, when asked to describe himself, says, “I like to hunt, fish and build cars.”

Charles grew up on a busy farm with his siblings and he always found himself gravitating toward his father’s mechanic shop. He helped out with minor tasks and chores, but soon advanced to more challenging projects. He started to not only fix car parts, but also make them. He says that he built a hot rod motor at the age of 12, a feat he still remembers with pride.

He left his parents’ home at age 18 and attended Wyoming Technical Institute, where he excelled in his classes. He earned several certifications, the most notable of which is being a certified Viper technician. At the end of his schooling, he left with a masters degree in Mechanics and was quickly able to find a job in his field. Krossman’s career flourished and he was able to settle down and marry his girlfriend. He and his wife adopted twin girls and had a boy of their own. Sadly, one of the girls died at age six months from an illness. Krossman worked long days to support his family but set aside weekends to spend quality time with them. He recalls how he would take his children on outings and how he went fishing for trout with his daughter. They unexpectedly made a much larger catch than expected and had to fight with the fish for over an hour to reel it in. “I caught her a salmon with a little kid’s (fishing) pole,” says Krossman, “the fish was bigger than her!” He says that she was overjoyed and slightly scared to touch the fish, but that they brought it home and ate it for dinner.

Krossman started his own business as a mobile mechanic, but as his career progressed he began to spend more and more time at his job. He relates that he wanted his family to have the best of everything, but that he began to invest too much of his time in his career. “My work overstepped my family life,” says Krossman, and he became a self-described “workaholic.” He and his wife separated over this issue, but he continues to stay in touch with them and remains a part of his children’s lives.

Krossman maintained his business as a mobile mechanic and lived reasonably well in an apartment. His life took a sudden turn when his service truck along with all of his tools was stolen. His truck was found later, but all of the tools were gone and truck had been stripped for parts. His insurance is currently in the process of handling the situation, but in the meantime, Krossman is left without a means of earning money. Without a job, he could not keep up on his rent and he was forced to live on the streets. Krossman says that he came to Portland with “no money, not knowing what to do.” He soon met the Street Roots vendor David Fink. “Since we’ve met we’ve been friends,” says Krossman. “What he’s got, I’ve got.”

Fink informed him of the opportunities which Street Roots provides, and Krossman was eager to start selling newspapers. “That initial start helped me to go and buy a coat and a backpack and get things I needed,” says Krossman. When he is not selling newspapers, Krossman gets his meals at the “feeds” and attends services at Liberation Street Church.

“I like the church because they’re always respectful. I always give them a copy (of Street Roots),” says Krossman. “They sit down and take the time to read it.”

Krossman says that he benefits not only from Street Roots’ vending opportunities, but also from the access to Street Roots’ lavatory and common space in the office. “To a lot of us that’s a big help; I was able to keep myself clean enough to not only sell the papers, but also apply for jobs,” says Krossman. He says that he wants to make an honest living and to one day restart his business. For now, he has found a job where he will do simple oil changes and tune ups, but this will provide enough income to fund a small apartment with two roommates, including David.

Krossman has plans laid out to buy a smaller truck with cheaper tools as soon as he receives his insurance check, and he is preparing to save up money to restart his business. He says that he just wants to make a living honestly without cutting corners because, he says, “That’s the way I am.”

 

Author: 
Leah Ingram, Contributing Writer
2010-11-09

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