Oftentimes, we here at the paper refer to Street Roots as a family; contributing members, bound together by a common thread.
I have been volunteering at Street Roots for over a year and a half and may still only have a cursory understanding of all the different aspects of the paper’s multi-faceted gene pool. There are many reasons why every one of us — from vendor to reader to volunteer — interacts with Street Roots. One of the most important is the basic idea that to be a part of Street Roots is to strive for something better.
Marshall and Julie Worley think so. They became vendors together in February. Selling the paper is beneficial for more than a means of income, and Marshall is happy to discuss it. In fact, he’s happy about a lot of things these days.
And he should be. He and Julie recently acquired housing and celebrated their one-year anniversary as a couple.
Their new studio apartment boasts two sizable sunny windows. Big, green branches twist in the breeze while we speak. A helium balloon adorned with a white rose and “Happy Anniversary” bounces too. Both Marshall and Julie are from Portland, and even grew up close to each other, but did not meet until later in life.
“We were neighbors and didn’t even know it,” Marshall says, grinning.
Marshall had sold the paper in the past, after seeing a poster in Blanchet House. He says he saw vendors around Portland who looked friendly and were “other people trying to work.”
“Everyone needs some kind of boss,” he explains. “Someone to hold responsibility to.”
Although he recognized the benefits of having an employer, he fell into a bad place in his recovery from drugs and alcohol. After some time, he lost all of his papers and turned in his badge.
However, he did not forget the paper. As he entered recovery, he remembered the paper. Marshall says he still felt a great appreciation for the support Street Roots had shown him in the past, and he would donate a dollar or two from his limited funds when he happened by the office. Eventually Art Garcia, vendor coordinator, convinced him to return.
Employment is a very important aspect to the paper for both Marshall and Julie, but it is also a means of socializing and contributing to the community. Besides being a vendor, Marshall volunteers for SOLV, a non-profit organization focused on preserving Oregon’s environment through community action. He dedicates his time to removing litter and debris from roadways, bus stops, and other public spaces.
He also cleans at The Royal Palm apartments and Blanchet House, volunteers at Cascadia, and works as a landscaper and groundskeeper at the trailer park where he and Julie grew up, and have long standing friends and family.
Street Roots is a way to “give back to some in the community for all they have done for me,” he says.
Julie especially encourages Marshall to use Street Roots as a means of positive interaction.
“He shuts himself in,” Julie says. It’s good to relate to other people, she says, not push them away.
“Other people in Old Town thought I should give more of my time to helping my fellow homeless and mentally ill … and learn to be more friendly and talkative,” Marshal. says.
Mental illness and recovery from substance abuse can make this difficult, but Marshall is doing his best to heed Julie’s good advice. People really open up to her, he says, when they are selling the paper.
Both used to deliver papers as children. In addition to selling at the Dollar Tree on SE Foster and 68th, Marshall enjoys delivering the paper to customers because it reminds him of his first job. He smiles a lot while describing how his mother and sister would come along on his route with him, to help and for company.
For a man who has struggled with personal demons and the trials of severe poverty and homelessness, he is cheerful, and focused on the productive aspects of his daily life.
Marshall says that Julie, Street Roots and the other agencies in the city that have helped him have been inspirations to him.
Marshall repeats how thankful he is to have a place to live, mentioning many different services in the city which have helped them both.
“We are truly grateful to everyone at Cascadia,” he says, refering to the organization that is housing he and Julie.
All in all, he’s very enthusiastic.
By Cassandra Koslen, Contributing Writer