We just got back from an incredible journey from the Northwest we went to Portland, then headed to Vancouver, B.C., then Seattle, then ended the journey back in Portland. Even though a lot of the organizations we wanted to check out were closed we did however get little glimpses into understanding more of what homelessness looks like in that area. All I can say is that homelessness there is more of a daunting task to tackle. It’s everywhere you turn. You can’t go more than a block and not see someone pan handling or sleeping in front of a doorway. I understood why so many feel overlooked. After awhile it’s easy to become numb to people asking you for help because you are constantly being bombarded by it everywhere you turn.
In the bigger cities, like Vancouver, we were told by the Sky Train worker that there you have to worry about the honesty of people. He says that a lot of them pretend to be homeless and can easily make about $200-$300 a night. It’s that sort of dishonesty that makes people feel what’s the point in helping them out. Some are playing a con on you and some maybe just don’t care so you think to yourself what’s the point in trying to help out and make a difference in an area where maybe a “bag” isn’t as useful as it in NW Arkansas.
When those defeated thoughts seem to out way the positive ones we met a man named Sean. He was standing outside Powell’s bookstore selling papers called “Street Roots.” This paper we later found out was a non-profit that helps people living in poverty. For every dollar that the vendor would sell 75cents of it would go directly to the vendor and 25cents would go back to the non-profit for printing and paper. Sean was telling us about how he and his wife are trying to get off the streets. He himself just made it to the area 5months ago and says that compared to other areas he does like this area. There are a lot of shelters and things that help him and his wife out and says compared other areas the Portland area wasn’t as bad. He was a guy that was honest trying to make a days pay selling newspapers and even was nice enough to tell us of some cool places in the Portland area that we should check out. He was friendly and didn’t curse people out if they didn’t help he would just genuinely say to have a nice day and would move on.
I’m so glad that we bought one of the papers because inside it there were stories that you wouldn’t normally read about in the normal paper. There were stories directly from the vendors and what law enforcement and the city are doing about the issue of homelessness. This paper ‘s entire goal is to provide dignity back to people living in poverty, sound familiar?
It was cool to turn the pages and read stories of people who are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are going back to school to get degrees to make more for themselves. It was inspiring to read through the pages. It provided more insight into homelessness. The main lesson that one has to learn in an area like a big city or even in little ones. Is that some people are dishonest and will do anything to cheat you out of some money but there are people who are honest, like Sean, and trying to make something of themselves and are looking for a hand to help them out.
We have to realize that we can’t judge “homelessness” from one person because when those seeds of defeat and doubt seem to weigh in you have to remember that one person doesn’t define everyone going through homelessness and are trying to get out. Just have to take it for face value and say that ‘s just one person and they don’t speak for everyone because if I kept that attitude about things I probably would of never stopped and gotten to meet some of the amazing people I have gotten the chance to talk to over this journey and would still be living inside the box. It’s about thinking outside yourself and helping those who need it. You have to silence voices that tell you your not making a difference and learn to listen to the one voice that counts. Everyday you can feel defeated especially if you are trying to make a difference in an area like the Pacific Northwest where the fruits of your labor aren’t necessarily seen everyday but just know you can’t stereotype everyone from one bad experience because one day you might meet a man like Sean who will show you that there is still fight left in people and have drive to be better and are taking the steps to doing so. Meeting people like him is what it’s all about and that’s what we have to hold onto.