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.

Abraham Vinzant

 

Watching him sell Street Roots outside of the Hawthorne New Seasons, one can easily understand how Abraham V. became the top Street Roots vendor of December 2012. With a jacket and hat as his only guard against the winter chill, he generates a positive energy and maintains body heat by staying in constant motion.

Shifting his weight from foot to foot, rocking back and forth between street and curb, Abraham warmly greets passing shoppers, thanking them whether they buy a copy of the paper or not.

Like a good salesman, the papers he has displayed, laid out neatly on top of his black, vinyl duffel bag. The foot traffic is not heavy, but it is enough to keep him motivated. “I like selling over here better than downtown,” he tells me, admitting the crowds in the city center make him anxious. Luckily, Abraham, a Portland native, has a lot of space to cover in Southeast and rotates between a few different locations when selling Street Roots.

Abraham first became a Street Roots vendor almost 14 years ago when, after leaving the Navy and falling on hard times, he came across another vendor and asked him about the program. 
Six months ago Abraham came to Street Roots a second time after being forced to give up his home so he could better financially support his mother and niece, whom he cites as his main priority. 
Abraham says he volunteered to be homeless so that his family could stay in housing, using a playful euphemism to describe what was no doubt a hard and unfortunate transition to experiencing homelessness for another time.

However, he insists on the importance of kinship. “If you don’t take care of your family, you’re nothing,” he says. “Families these days are so against each other.”  It is his responsibility to his family along with his determination not to give up on himself that keeps him thriving at Street Roots. “To me standing with a sign would be like I’m giving up.”

In addition to selling Street Roots, Abraham has another job, which asks employees to sign a non-compete agreement. While the other job is enough to supplement his income, it is not enough to live on alone. 
Right now, Abraham lives from his truck and at a secret campsite that he has managed to make a bit safer and more comfortable with his extensive contracting skills. When asked if he can build a house he ardently responds, “I have!”

Over the past six months Abraham has focused his efforts on learning the ins and outs of Street Roots sales. This being his second time as a vendor, Abraham has a lot of knowledge to offer on the subject of sales. If you come across Abraham selling Street Roots in Southeast, you’ll see his sales pitch is infectious and full of optimism.

Author: 
Ann-Derrick Gaillot, Contributing Writer
2013-02-01

Our Friends Speak About Street Roots

Between the FYI-texts: 'Did you see this in Street Roots?', scrolling by the happy #NewPaperFriday selfies on social media, and picking up the weekly with my groceries — the Street Roots experience is totally integrated into my Portland life. We are a lucky city to have the love, dedication, and tenacity for good news and better community that Street Roots brings us every day of the year.

- Jes Larson, Executive Director, Welcome Home Coalition