Israel Bayer, director of Street Roots and a friend of anybody in Portland looking for a hand up and a little bit of dignity, has written an important essay in the paper's online edition about homelessness and the power of perception and the shitty, dehumanizing myths people all too often indulge.
The piece starts with the story of a vendor outside Powell's who lovingly safeguarded a cherished military medal a broken-hearted woman dropped outside the store. It goes on to make the point that everybody has a story and deserves respect and a chance.
But aren’t homeless and poor people supposed to be scary? Don’t homeless people just sit around and drink and take from society? Aren’t they a menace to commerce?
We believe Street Roots is shattering those myths....
We believe everyone is equal at Street Roots. It’s not always easy.
Bill is a long-time drugstore cowboy. Jimmy is a former Crip and coming off 4-year run in the pen and wants to leave street life behind. George use to run with the Aryan Nation, and turning his life and belief system around. Bobby has cancer and is dying a slow death without adequate treatment. Tammy just became homeless and is running from domestic violence. Carol has finally got it together enough to try to kick the dope. Tom is coming back from two tours in Afghanistan and is fighting demons in his head. Dick has been homeless for 20 years after growing up in abuse. The names have been changed for privacy, but the list goes on and on.
That's just a taste. Read the whole thing here. And never forget it.