DANNY
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Saying, ‘How’s your day?’Just letting them know that you know they’re there, will bring somebody up and help them out.

I'm from California. Originally, I'm from Delano, California, in Kern County by Bakersfield. Yeah, I did a lot of prison time, mostly my whole life. Finally, for the first time, I came out, got everything the right way. You know, got my house, my car. My kids are doing cool. College funds, everything. Finally, the first time in my life I ever did it without taking it, or cooking some drugs and selling it.

And I lost my daughter, and then the next day, a young friend of mine named Cel, he got gunned down. my friend Rudy, he's 46, 47 years old, tattoo artist, he's like a dad to me, he got hit by a train because he was drunk. And, you know, I crashed. I went into drugs, wanted to kill myself, kept trying.

There's a lot of homeless like me, too, ain't just homeless because they want to be, you know? It's because something traumatic happened to them in their lives. And I've had a very traumatic childhood, getting molested at a very young age for a whole year by several different men when I was seven. I started using drugs when I was eight years old to forget. Because my cousin went through the same thing, and he told me, "This helps." So I been in and out of drugs, prisons, institutions my whole life.

First time in my life I ever ate out of a trash can and never thought I would. And I got sick. And then I ate out again. We gotta be doing stuff like that. Degrade ourselves a little bit. Just because we hungry. Holding up a sign, that's embarrassing for me. 

Maybe somebody went through some of the things that I went through. When they hear my story, or they hear somebody else's story, that person could help that person. And I could help this person. There's always somebody out there for somebody that could help them, you know?

God went through a lot of pain for us. I'm gonna go through a lot of pain, too. I'm doing it for everybody else. I want to make money and do good for myself, so my family could see me finally be the man that I need to be. But also, to help out a lot of homeless out here. 


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JACOB
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I’m blessed every morning when I open my eyes. I might not like what I see when I open them, but hey I’m blessed to be breathing.

I just got reconnected with my mom. I had met my dad for the first time, and then in 2001, he passed away. Around that time I was having issues accepting that it was the Lord calling him home. My dad walked out on me when I was six months old. To meet him one time in my life and then to have him ripped out of my life, it's hard for anyone. Right now, I'm going through issues with my mom. My mom and my brothers aren't talking to me for some reason. My mom thinks I need to get on psychological medication just to enter her house. 

Hard to get mental health around here in this state. That's one of the reasons I'm homeless. Too many closed walls is not a good thing.

It's a crisis that we face in this whole state. Here's an idea. Take all that marijuana money that you got last year for taxes and give it to the mental health crisis workers, so they can help us. It's really hard. I should be on three or four different psych meds and I can't even get my insurance to cover it.

It's hard. Nobody understand us. I wish there were more people that did.

I could care less about what money I make today, but if I can have one or two people realize the joy that the Lord has put into me under my circumstances, I hope that they find the joy and the love that the Lord has for them because he loves us all equally. It doesn't matter if we're white, black, Hispanic or what. He loves us all and he wants us to know that.


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MICHAEL
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I just no know that if I get myself into it, I can get myself out of it.

Growing up wasn't bad. I always had the best of things, always involved with sports and student council, always involved in the community, the church and going to private school. After that, I lost contact with parents and people passed away and because I was more or less adopted, didn't really have any immediate contact, emergency numbers or anything.

I've always had high expectations of myself and decent grades and I like being around people and dealing with people and I just don't see much of a future in it and yet here I am. As for pulling myself out of, I'm not sure if it's something that's gonna happen right away, but it's something that I know it's possible. It's not out of my reach.

Right now my hands aren't shaking or trembling, I don't feel sick or tired or fatigued in any way, just need a little more time to process things. I have people to talk to about it but I might do some vocational classes, if things were set up a certain way.


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CHRISTOPHER
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There’s a lot of people out here that need help... And a lot of people are just walking by like it doesn’t bother them.

See, in New York State, they knew I was handicapped and everything, and because I went through opioids, I got thrown out of my apartment for smoking a joint to kill the pain.

I had no place to go, so I went to Denver. And being on the streets in Denver, they told me that they didn't want my kind there. And when I called the paramedics to go to the hospital because I couldn't breathe, they took me to a substation and busted my ribs and left me laying in the street for 12 hours until people came out of the house, and I went to St Joe's there in Denver. I was in there a week, and they treated me like crap.

Then, I came out here, and they were telling me the same thing. I didn't have an address, and that I needed oxygen, but they couldn't give me oxygen because I was on the streets. And they don't think any person with COPD at the stage four or stage three should be on the streets like that. You can't get oxygen if you're on the streets, and people just walk by you and they don't care, even if you're dying, they'll just walk right on by, and that's one of my worst fears is that people are not paying attention.

I did around 30 years on and off on the streets, but this last time though, coming out here, I couldn't walk but three or four blocks because I didn't have oxygen and everything like this. So I hung around Morrison and the library. It was thank goodness to a social worker at the library and the security guard there, got me into housing through going to the hospital.


TERRELL
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To be out here, you don’t want to know reality. So you try to alter it in anyway you can.

they gave me a no cause eviction. Thirty days, and no place to go, and my caseworker didn't even help me find a place. I ended up in shelters. I broke my tibia and a skilled nursing facility took me in, but I spent a whole year out here on the streets. No where to go. I didn't want to tell my children because they were fresh in life and they got a lot going on. I didn't want them to worry.

But there's just thousands of us out here, with no help. We got help by the grace of God. But other people are getting no cause evictions, for what? For something like I did? People just bypass homeless people, like they're a leper. Like they're non-human. They're pieces of you know what.

Your human pride goes slowly and slips away. When that's gone and your morals and your values, like a domino effect, begin to happen. Until you are the piece of shit that everybody thinks you are, and treats you like. Then you become that. "Well, they don't think I'm worth anything anyway." To alter reality, drink some more. Why not? Maybe you won't wake up. Glory be to God, or heck. Maybe that drug will make me feel better and I won't be so cold out here. Or it won't matter that it hurts for my head to sleep on the cement, or my body. I won't feel the pain of physical, mental and emotional pain.

I'm very proud of all my children. I'm just very proud of them, and I don't want to be a burdensome stone. I want a place where they can come and see mom and grandma, you know what I mean? That's what I want, that's my dream, for the rest of my life. Is to have my best friends and my family, and my God and our peace. And a good community, and that's not much to ask.


JAMES
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You cut my hand and you cut your hand, and we both bleed the same blood.

I was lazy and I just let myself get sucked into the wrong crowd and went right back to the same old stuff. Doing meth, doing heroin off and on, smoking weed, drinking, just thinking I'm 17 or 18 years old and I'm 34. I've been doing drugs and alcohol since I was 13. I died on heroin twice, I had a five and a half gram a day habit and it was just so horrible.

it's a way I've given up or just numbing out and not dealing with life the way it is and that's how I've been doing it. It's a struggle. I think for me, just not dealing with the pain and the sorrow that I found out about when I was in prison. let's just say that I've been to more funerals and I've never been to a wedding. I've had more people die. I had two brother just die within the last five years on motorcycles.

Not having an ID, being able to get a job, clothing, shelter, everything like that. It's just a real struggle and it doesn't give a person hope. It just makes them have that mindset, "Well, screw it. I'll do something different." I just don't wanna do the same old thing, you know, beat my head against a wall.

I see all these people out here and I feel for them, I don't wanna add to anybody's misery or anything like that, because I know how it is. I just try and be the best man I can today and that's it.


CRYSTAL & ANGEL
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Told us that we had no choice, it was her or me, and I’m not gonna let my daughter go.

Crystal: I came up here right when she found an apartment and we got kicked out because I was with her. She found a place that was for disabled people and they allowed her, graciously with her caregiver, to live there. When they found out that my mom had me come to live with her, with my issues—I came from an abusive situation, we got kicked out. The manager was suppose to turn her head. Neither of us liked that idea, but it kept us both safe and somewhere where we had to live, but the manager decided one day, she wanted to change her mind and went up to corporate and got us kicked out because she no longer liked the idea of me living with my mom.

Angel: We're in a vehicle, very cramped, very cold. We come out here to try to make enough to at least eat and if we get enough to eat, then we'll leave or we try to get people to help out with getting us a night in the motel and something to eat. But we haven't had much luck at that for ... but that's what we try to do.

Every shelter that I've ever attempted to try to go to, they would separate the families. With me, I have to have my husband with me at all times, because he takes care of me and her, and then they also won't let the kittens be with us

Crystal: I grew up with my biological grandmother and things were really rough and went really wrong. I got taken from her about a year ago, and I was put into CPS custody in the state of Texas, for mental health reasons. Things get a little gray once you enter the door of a mental health clinic. So some things went really wrong and I got really hurt and they had me on a lot of medication that put me in organ failure, but I managed to get out.

I found my mom's number and she offered me a safe place to go. Now she is the thing that keeps me going. I go un-medicated now, I'm not forced to have any kind of medication or anything, so we battle our downs together and help each other through the ups. We keep each other going.


MICHELLE
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It was horrifying because my dad used to beat my mom in front of me and I would have to jump on her to squeeze her tight.

I used to ride rodeo, I miss my horses. I rode barrel racing for about four years. But then I decided I wanted to get wild, so I got on Rocky, and I went up into Arizona territory, and caught a stallion. And, it broke my heart. I roped him. He ran up against a barbed wire fence, and it slit his side open, so when my mom got back home from work. She goes, "We're gonna call veterinarians and have them come stich him up." And I swore to God, I'll never rope another wild horse again, never.

My son, Jordan, he's 34. He went to prison for doing heroin crap. And he almost died. When he got out of prison, my aunt sent him to me for a Christmas present, it was the greatest thing I ever saw. Then he went back to jail, but he looked at me in the court room, and the judge said, "Do you wanna say anything to your son?" And I said, "Yeah, I love him." And he turned around and he looked at me, and he goes, "Momma, it's gonna be okay, we're gonna get it taken care of." I'd fall over dead if I lost my son.

I'm 53 years old, and I'm dead dog tired. I've been hit with a bat, I've been hit with a hammer in my head, and I'm kind to people. It hurts my feelings. I kind of got a little bit cold and lonesome and scared. So, I'm trying to find a place to hide. It's scary.

I love being in Portland, but I don't like these high rises, it's ruining everything. I don't want it to turn into a mini-Vegas, or whatnot. I like everything beautiful. The only thing I get a little bit disgusted over, is the crows. They drive me nuts.


SHAWN
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If there was more advocation over what’s available, what to do if problems arise, and what resources then I think there’d probably be once again less problems.

Born in Oregon, natural born. Had two other siblings besides me, we were all kind of separated as kids, but before our teens got back together and did the family thing. There was this time period in between were we got passed around, it was a little bit unique, by that I mean to my uncles, aunts, and to family members where mom was not sure during our childhood if she was going to be able to support us all, sort of thing.

I'm homeless and I put myself in that situation, but everybody's got our different reason, mine was just because some family members and friends that were suffering out here, I wanted to see what they experienced. The only way to do so is to subject to it. It's been enlightening and very informational. Some people can struggle to the point of even death out here, it's that hard.

If you know the ways of the city, and the facilities, Oregon has some of the best, then most probably, a person can't starve out here. So, if there's any uncomfortable factors it would be the handicap ready, the elderly who are having hard times getting around I've noticed, having means of transportation. The same problem I'm having kind of with my feet, keeping up with the shoes, and the wear and tear.

A lot of people can't read or don't speak English. So, if they had that verbalized information where they can hear it, if that was more accessible that would also be a big bonus for the elderly, for the disability when it comes to hearing. more one on one clientele mediation, interaction.


BRYAN
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Just being comfortable and stable would be a huge improvement in my life.

I've been on and off homeless for a few years now. I used to work a long string of odd jobs and just kept getting fired, a lot of attendance problems. Last few years, I've been getting medical treatment to find out that I have PTSD and sleep apnea and this circadian rhythm disorder that has really influenced my ability to work and has caused me, among other things, a lot of mental health issues. I've kind of just given up on trying to fit that role that I couldn't ever seem to fit, no matter how hard I tried.

I feel that there can be a lot of discrimination. I understand that a lot of the homeless population can be problematic in certain ways, but they still have problems, and they have their reasons for the things they do. I feel it can be a bit callous because there's so many homeless people in the downtown area especially. The "you made your own bed" mentality about it, which is always, I feel, unfair, even if there's kernels of truth to it because a lot of people with mental health issues abuse drugs to cope, and then addiction. It is a vicious cycle for a lot of people.

I always think even if I'm being judgmental or callous about someone I'm afraid of, I have to remind myself they're people. There's reasons they're in the position they are. It's not just a blatant, flagrant "Well, I'm going to do this because it's easier." Anybody you ask who's homeless will tell you being homeless is not easy. It's definitely work on its own.

Yeah, I'm just kind of out on the street, doing whatever. I've been learning music. I played a little in middle school, but happened upon a guitar, so been trying to learn, just trying to pass time really. 

 

 


BILLY
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Everybody to me is equal... I treat everybody with respect.

I'm Billy. I'm 51 years old. Grew up in the South all my life. Moved up to the North. I never seen this part of the United States. I had a house, 2 vehicles, a boat, a family. I got hurt, got divorced and moved up here, lost my vehicle, got in a car wreck.

I get up at 4 o'clock every morning, catch a bus at 4:30, on the blueline at 4:35, and downtown on my corner about 5:10, 10 after 5, 5:07, like I was this morning. People walk by me, from the hotel to the coffee shop and say, "you still here", "yes sir" "yes ma'am," I say. They respond, "Keep up the good work". That helps. 

Some people say, “I'll help you.” and gets your hope up. You don't have that much hope in people anymore because you hear the same thing all the time, "I'll come back and get a paper from you, I'm going to go to lunch and come back and get one.” I never see their car again.

I'm out here trying to joke with people, or its telling the ladies, "oh you look nice today, or that's a pretty dress, nice necklace." Make them feel appreciated, hey someone noticed me. I got people go by me all the time, or a school bus go by me full of little kids. I wave at the little kids and it brightens the little kids' face, big ol' smile on their face, and they be waving back.


JEAN
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Shelter life, if you are clean and sober, is a nightmare.

We're out here because we had black mold in our home. Made us sick. My husband was out of work for 17 months. I was out of work for 15 months. We were literally on the street, sleeping on the concrete or on blankets every night, or in a tent, or under a canopy, whatever we could find.

We do everything to make an honest living. We're just trying to make ends meet. We sell street roots, and I take the street root money and make incense. I go to the Gresham Farmer's Market when we can afford to rent a truck. Saturday, we rented a truck for $88. Our booth rental was $35. We made $122 on Saturday, between selling street roots and the incense. I go around to Goodwill stores, buy things, and I sell on eBay. I started knitting a couple weeks back. It's a slow process. It's hard for me. It's taken me four months to do two scarves, and I told them for $28 because we needed bus passes and food. Our food stamps ran out this month. 

If you know anybody that has a vehicle that is reliable and can get my husband back and forth to work. Well, we need a truck, is what we need, with a tow package. We put $500 down on a utility trailer, but the guy is adding on a custom kitchen to it, a tub and shower, where we can get back into an RV and actually live at an RV park, and get back to the lifestyle that we had before.

 


MARCOS
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I try to ignore their misconceptions... I guess that’s what takes you away from the mentality that you are useless.

I am originally from California. I'm an adopted child, so I grew up not knowing my dad. So, we would go from foster home to foster home. But it was just me and my sister.

The truth is I have not tried to get in to any shelters. I try to stay away from shelters because a lot of times you just can't rely on shelters, especially if you have a whole bunch of stuff because one day some dude will just jack your stuff. I know that shelters supposedly help, and they do. There are certain ones that are actually good and that they aint going to do any of this stuff, but I still try to stay away from shelters no matter what. I would rather have all my stuff together right now than get it all stolen. Though I did get my beanie stolen while I was asleep. That was interesting. I woke up the next day, and I was like didn't I have a beanie on?

I actually got myself into music so I play in the streets most of the time. My friend actually taught me the ukulele in high school. And that's when I picked this up. It's basically a ukulele but banjo body. So it's kind of a fun little gig. I go play table tennis whenever I can. People are like what are you talking about? But, yeah. I go play. People don't think of it as a sport, but it's a fun sport.


DANIELLE
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What’s even nicer is if they do notice you they keep their head up as to not cause you anymore embarrassment.

When I first came here I was I want to say 23, near the end of 23 to 24 and I will be 32 the tenth of October.

It does not matter whether you're in a shelter or you're actually on the streets or you're couch surfing. They all come with their struggles and parameters. For instance, if you're on the streets, whether you have a cart or a backpack or your stuff in general, transporting it from one spot to the other, you try not to outweigh yourself to be able to get from one spot to the other. That's a struggle in itself of transporting items as well as needing the necessities, food, water, bathroom, shower, laundry.

Some shelters are only night shelters so they only open late in the evening but you have to leave as early in the morning. So you can only do few of those things there like eating, using the restroom, sleeping. There's no laundry. There's no showers. So then you have go to the day center to do laundry and showers and things like that.

Then if you're couch surfing it's your friends, but at the same time you don't want to over burden them but still be able to utilize the space. In any case it's all going to have struggles and limitations. Eventually it's going to bring you to a breaking point at which case you can either let it over rule you and take charge, or you can sit there and not break it down.


SCOTTY
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I miss my family. It’s this crazy life I live. I don’t know how I’ve been holding on, but I’m still here.

I'm from Hawaii. I'm trying to get back home, my mom just got diagnosed with dementia, and my dad's not taking that very well.

I've been on the streets for over 20 years now and at the beginning it was great. I told myself there's no responsibilities, no bills, all that kind of stuff. I started my homelessness in Hawaii, and then I came up to Oregon because my sister lived here, but she went back to Hawaii so I gotta get back to Hawaii.

A lot of people think we're bad people and we're not bad people, we're pretty cool people. If they just gave us time to get to know us and meet us and they'll see what kind of what kind of people we are. I'm not gonna force it on anyone anymore. It's up to them if they want to be my friend, up to them if they want to help me or whatever. I'm not gonna ask anymore.

I learned a lot on the streets, a lot. Majority of it is about loving thy neighbor. I wouldn't do anything different if I had to, I'd still do what I'm doing. Just loving everybody.


AARON
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Drug addicts are using drugs to mask something, or we’re medicating ourselves because of some other issue.

I've always had an addictive personality. My dad was an alcoholic. Well, he was an addict. He'd pop pills, and he was actually the one who gave me my first pills. 

 It doesn't take long from the time when you just start messing around here and there to where you lose everything. And I did. I lost everything. That's when I ended up on the streets. I've been on the streets for little over four years now. That's where I'm at today. Still on the streets. Still addicted to heroin.  Starting my treatment now.

There's definitely some effects from being a kid and going through my parents getting divorced. It was pretty rough with how it all went down and my dad being a severe alcoholic, and there was a lot of abuse as far as between my mom and my dad. Growing up, I was always really quiet, and No one ever explained anything to me. I was always with my parents fighting and stuff, and then one day my dad leaves and I didn't see him again for five or six years. Didn't know where he was. No one ever talked about it.

I decided I want to get my life back. Maybe go back to school, go to culinary school or something. That's what I like to do as far as work.  Maybe even have my own little restaurant or café. Hell, even a food cart. That would be just something where it's mine and I get to do what I love to do, which is cook.

 

 


BURGESS FAMILY
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I didn’t choose to be like this. I didn’t want my son being out here... All you can do is keep busting it, keep on fighting.

I'm a warm, able bodied person, and should be able to work, and there is just no working. That's what everybody looks down upon, you're not working so you're nobody. You're a nobody, so that's why you see people just walk by, look at you, and keep right on going.

It's hard on us and we used to stress out and everything, because there's hardly any work. You know, everybody thinks there's all these homeless because of all the drugs and all this and all that. Yeah, well, I might smoke a little herb every once in a while, but I'm not an addict or anything like that. It's just the economy these days, there's no work. You know, whatsoever. So it's hard for people like blue collar people to be able to sit there and look down upon somebody like me and my wife, because we don't have a place to go or anything. And it's disheartening.

Trying to be cool,  fed, warm, and everything. That's the hardest thing I've come through in Portland so far. And it doesn't mean that it won't get harder, because every city plays their cards just a little bit different than the next, that I've noticed in 42 years. It's crazy. Other than that, it's a pretty good city. It's a nice city.  I think people need to smile more. You know what I'm saying? if you look around, nobody smiles here.


JOSH
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For those of us that are actually trying to get ahead and get our lives back, really sometimes all it takes is just somebody taking a chance on us...

I'm not out here because I want to be. I didn't choose to become homeless. I actually lost everything in a house fire. Including my fiancee and my daughter. I was at work and I get a call from the sheriff's department that I needed to come home.  I wasn't thinking that it was that bad. I get home and everything's just gone. It's just a pile of ash.

I just wished people realized that we're not all vagabonds and thieves and criminals. Literally, I've got a college degree. I've been in the army, I had a whole other life, and bad stuff happened and I ended up on the street. Some of us just have a rough go of it.

Just take the time to get someone and find out what their needs are and see if you can help them get to their goal. Or just ask someone, "What size do you wear?" Or "Are you hungry? What do you want to eat?" Or something like that. If you're worried about somebody being a drug user or something like that just get a gift card or something like that. You can generally tell who the drug seekers are. And really the biggest problem in Portland is people acting like they're homeless.

 


CHARLES
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I lost my best friend. His name is the same as mine, Bates. We didn’t have the money to figure out if we are kin...That hurt bad. That hurt bad. That hurt bad.

My car went up in flames. All of my suitcases. All of my mother's pictures. All of everything. Because I stayed in the car for over five months. And I fixed it up so neatly, so neatly.

I say, man, I'm going to Portland. I'm going to Portland. And an hour later, I was on the bus. I got here on April the 8th, and I been here ever since.

What I call this city is a very racist, racist, racist city. You know? I call it that because I feel it. I know what I'm looking at. Okay, I got nothing against Caucasian. Absolutely nothing, do you hear me? Absolutely nothing. I grew up with them. High school. Elementary school. Grammar school. I played basketball with them. The whole nine yards. But I think Portland is one of the most racist cities on the planet. I've always said that from the beginning, when I got out of here in 1980.

And maybe you don't approve of me, judging, making that judgment. But I know what I see. I know what I see. I know what I see. You know what I'm saying? This city is governed by Caucasians. So, you know, the bitterness that I feel is what I see.

 


KAREN
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Never, never. My faith. My faith in the man upstairs. Every day is a good day when I wake up and I love him and he loves me and if I can help somebody I will.

Well, I'm being honest. It's not the greatest, alright. I'm sleeping right next to somebody. We're on top of each other, okay. There's 50 women in one room and it gets pretty obnoxious. But we deal. We try to deal, we're older so the younger ones kinda listen a little bit to us older ones, but there's a gender right next to me, okay. It's uncomfortable but you know what? Nice person. But I mean, you're on top of one another and that's scary. It's almost like if you're a married husband and wife, that's how close we are.

 Somebody was killed right next--following box. somebody we knew. The girl that had done it was a little schizophrenic. Okay, that's another thing. Since the institution shut down, it's overrun with these patients that desperately need the psychiatric department. She went off and shot her. Another one was knifed.

 I have a big heart to give and if my experience can help somebody else stay off the street, then it's worth it and we got a lot of drug addicts too. If I can get them off the streets ... There's a couple girls I'm working on getting them away from it. I'm trying to get 'em to come to church, I ain't got 'em to come to church yet but working on it.