Caring Community

Words by Marlon Crump AKA "Mad Man Marlon"
Photography by Alicia DeMellier

Homelessness and poverty affects us all, in one way or another. Like most cities here in the "richest and powerful country in the world,” we see it everyday. People lying in doorways wrapped in blankets and sitting on sidewalks with nowhere to call home.

We see tents put up in secluded areas as an encampment by homeless people and even homeless families, elders to be sheltered from the rain and cold. The closest to " affordable housing" that they can find. Winters are always the most difficult. The sound of feet and cars bypassing as if you are invisible like the air or disgusting like trash.

I lived in a tent for two months. There were days when my tent could barely withstand the velocity of high winds and heavy rain conditions.

For six years, I've called Portland, Oregon my home away from home, and for good reason. Everyday I work as a street vendor for Street Roots, a community newspaper that’s well-respected here in Portland.

Many community members love and respect Street Roots and its vendors very much. They dedicate much of their support as often as they can. Even through harsh weather conditions, community members not only open their wallets and purses to them, they open their hearts.

Some have gone out of their way contributing what they can on providing basic needs to homeless vendors and homeless people on the street like food, blankets, and hygiene kits.

Throughout my tenure as a vendor, I've seen just how powerful both the community and Street Roots can be as a model example of exhibiting love and humanity. The positive impact of how a stranger can become family, some even immediately.

I NEVER take my position for granted. Appreciation is my dedication. It is a BIG deal to not only receive support, but the acknowledgement of being respected for bringing a positive community service.

To be independent and self-fulfilled in survival of the hardest times of struggling to make an honest living. The community doesn’t even ask for much. They only hope to see a smiling face brighten their day. No day goes by that I don't feel blessed.

And no day will EVER go by that the community of Portland and Street Roots isn't breakfast... for my heart.