In honor of International Vendor Week, I would like to tell the story of how my vendor Jamie got me involved with Street Roots back in 2008. I'd just moved from Seattle—where I'd always purchased Real Change—to Portland. I was an AmeriCorps volunteer at the City of Gresham in the Maps and Data department, and my supervisor Molly Vogt had approved my independent project of creating a map of resources for low-income and homeless people in the area. Prior to this, I worked as a street outreach worker and case manager, and knew how hard it was to find appropriate resources for the people I worked with.
Enter Jamie: One day as I was buying a paper, he showed me the Rose City Resource and told me all about it. It was brilliant. I'd never seen anything quite like the pocket-sized guide that was written specifically FOR people on the streets — other resource guides I'd worked with were oriented towards service providers, not the people who actually used resources. And it was painstakingly updated on a regular basis. This was beyond my wildest dreams.
I met with Israel and Street Roots, who were willing to share their data with my project, but after assessing the situation further, it became clear that rather than a resource map, putting the guide online in a single, consolidated database would be way more sustainable and useful than a one-time map. Time for a re-think.
My project morphed from creating a single static map of resources (less useful) to wrangling the Rose City Resource Guide website into existence. With the help of an all-volunteer developer crew from the Portland Drupal User Group and support from Molly and my co-workers at the City of Gresham, in March 2009, rosecityresource.org was born.
Over the next few years I continued to volunteer at Street Roots, mostly on tech and website projects. In 2011, Israel contacted me and said that Street Roots had received a capacity-building grant and was looking to hire an operations director…and since July 2011, I've been proud to work here. I get to see Jamie in the office and have gotten to know dozens of other amazing men and women who sell Street Roots. I am continually amazed at these individuals, who, with a Postal Service-like work ethic, get out there day after day, rain or shine. And, if it hadn't been for that interaction with Jamie, I wouldn't be here today or have done the work I have been able to do at Street Roots.
It is always humbling when a vendor cheers me up — a friendly human being working hard selling the best newspaper in the city, despite the stress and harsh reality of living outside. It re-orients me when I have a bad attitude or am feeling snarky and a Street Roots vendor throws me a genuine smile and hello. Our vendors are some of the most incredible people I have met, and I am honored to know and work with them. And I will always be grateful to Jamie for both a great friendship and for bringing me into the Street Roots fold.
-Sarah Beecroft, Street Roots Operations Director