In America, we often refer to the poor as invisible. Vendor Skip Haggett can attest to the truth in this. He says it’s tough on the streets, trying to find a job, a good place to lay his bedroll, or even to help the city in an honest way.
“A lot of people don’t see what happens out there. I do,” Haggett says. “It’s just rough on people, it’s rough on the homeless.”
It is near impossible to get a solid night’s sleep when your camp site is awoken in the middle of almost every night by police or park attendants. Sometimes the authorities do not even ‘move them along,’ but have woken him up in the past just to ‘check in on’ local campers.
Homeless on and off since the age of 13, Haggett says he feels ignored by the city, even when he tries to help. He camps at night, there is a privacy and cleanliness to setting up a tent that is unavailable at local shelters, which are crowded and highly regulated. From living and sleeping near the river, he sees all the trash left by addicts and transients just passing through.
“When I get bored, I go walk down a trail and pick up the garbage I find along the trail,” says Haggett. “I have three or four bags I throw out every morning.”
Haggett and a few companions approached the city about the possibility of picking up the trash along the river bank where they camp clean in exchange for the right to sleep there. He says they were turned down.
Now, Haggett says, the riverbank where he makes his home is once again covered in the remnants of other peoples’ strewn possessions.
“The city does not listen to a homeless person,” Haggett claims. But he, and some of his friends, want to help make changes for the better.
“Let the homeless do something, to help the city. You know, the one’s that want to. There’s a lot of them that want to do something … and then there are a lot of them that don’t really care.”
In the meantime, Haggett would really like a job. From lumberyards to farms outside the city to a pipe laying job that fell through, Haggett says it’s a tough racket out there, but he’s still trying.
If it doesn’t work out in Portland, Skip plans on riding his mountain bike to Arizona where he has a friend and the possibility of a job. While that may seem like a long ride for one man with a tent for shelter and a toolbox for emergencies, he is excited about the possibility. The furthest he has ridden so far is from Washington to Montana.
“I go looking for work every morning, carry resumes and hand out them out,” he says. “I just wish things would change out there, I wish there’d be more jobs.”
Selling Street Roots helps, and Haggett likes his customers. Still, it is hard not to become bitter and frustrated. Life on the streets is full of adversity, and the public opinion of what a homeless man is is not always positive.
“I stay to myself, hang with my friends, try to avoid most of this. When you see it… it’s really hard. One guy on the news, he said the homeless can stay out of sight out of mind, just so long as I don’t see them. But, you know, you’re going to see them, there’s 10,000 homeless out there.”