"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, August 08, 2011

leo, roger and jason

There is a bi-weekly newspaper in Portland called "Street Roots" which covers, among other things, topics specific to issues surrounding homelessness.

From the "Street Roots" website: "The 'Street Roots' motto is 'for those who can’t afford free speech.' The content and investigative journalism in the paper provide stories regarding marginalized communities, inequality, systemic abuses, addiction, etc. It brings clarity to political wranglings over budgets and often complex systems that are difficult for people to understand. The newspaper asks what the need is, who the needy are, and what they look like. 'Street Roots' is also a platform for individuals to publish their voices through poems, editorials, and opinions."

An impressive 12,000 - 15,000 copies are distributed; many of those are sold by the 80 homeless vendors who work for the paper. This group of sellers can be found on various corners throughout the city, politely hawking the paper for $1.00. The vendors pay $.25 for each paper; the $.75 profit goes directly into their pockets. For most of these homeless men and women, this is their only form of income. They take great pride in the paper and assume a certain ownership of it, making suggestions and providing input at weekly vendor meetings.

One of Portland's more recognizable members of the homeless community, Leo is a homeless activist and member of the board of "Street Roots." Occasionally he writes articles for the paper. He's also a poet.

On a good day, Roger, who stands outside Powell's Bookstore, sells 15 papers. Roger's been selling the paper for 12 years. He and his girlfriend (who is also a "Street Roots" vendor) camp outside on the other side of town.

Jason sells his papers each Sunday morning on a corner outside the Unitarian Church. He greets many of the churchgoers by name as they walk by. After selling a handful of papers, he enters the church and attends services along with them.

These three men were so gracious to let me photograph them; I'll be delivering prints to them tomorrow. And I am looking forward to photographing more of the vendors soon.

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