Every night in Portland, there are an estimated 2000 to 3000 people living on the streets. For this photo essay, I talked with more than 20 of the men and women who make up our city's homeless population. Each had a different story to tell. I heard stories of broken homes, drug addictions, and new marriages. But mostly I heard stories of people who wanted the same things we all want: love, a hot cup of soup on a cold day, a place to call home.

Editor's note: In mid-December about 30 homeless men staked out a collection of tents under the Broadway Bridge. They called their new home "Dignity Village." Since then, the City of Portland, backed by an anti-camping ban, has chased the homeless out of several sites.

On Monday February 26, Out of Doorway campaign is sponsoring "An Evening Fast," a fundraiser for the men in Dignity Village to help them pay for gas for their stoves, a dumpster, and a Porta-Potty. Held at PSU's Smith Center Ballroom, admission for the two seatings--6 pm and 8 pm--is $25 per person. Think about it, what's $25 to give 30 men a place to live?

A few weeks ago the Mercury was challenged to do something substantive for the homeless men and women of Portland. We agreed! We're putting our money where our mouth is and giving to the Porta-Potty fund. For more information about the Evening Fast, contact Rev. Ronald Williams at (503) 288-5429.

Anonymous homeless man

"I'm not interested in talking to you unless there's money involved. Time is money, you know. If you want to learn about being homeless, you should get yourself a sleeping bag and go down and sleep in the doorways a few nights. Then you'll know what it's like being homeless."

Virus, 21, homeless for three years

"I wish people would not be so judgmental, because it can happen to anybody. A lot of people think it doesn't affect us when they look at us as though we're not human."

Tim, 23, homeless for six months
"I wish, for one thing, that people stopped believing that we're all lazy and dysfunctional. Some are, but there's a lot of people out here that aren't. They have jobs, they just can't afford a place to live. They do the same things that people who have apartments and houses do."

Mike, 54, homeless for nine years
Where is my home going to be tonight?/ It will more than likely be in a doorway/ or it may be on a dock./ No matter where it may be, the cops will/ more than likely tell me to go on ¯ or/ give me a ticket, or put me in jail--from a poem titled "Where is my home going to be Tonight"

Debbie, homeless "a long time," recently engaged to Mike
"In my opinion, I would rather be poor and humble. It gives you a sense of awareness of who you are and what you value. As long as I am warm and dry and happy and have decent clothes to wear, I really don't care."