Sometimes the world can feel overwhelming. What can I do to make a difference? Does it matter? Can I change anything? The simple answer is yes.
Street Roots is faced with these challenges every day. For example, we know we don’t have enough resources to scale up to end homelessness, but we can work to end people’s homelessness. We may not be able to change the national political environment, but we can continue to make the world we live in a better place. A small gesture or donation may not seem like a lot, but it means everything to people struggling to survive.
Below is a short list of simple ways you can help support a larger social justice movement in Portland this holiday season. It’s cliché to say that you make the difference, but it’s true. You do make the difference.
• Simply bring the love! Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” During these dark days, those are words to live by. No question. It’s a hard slog, but in the end, it’s love that will bring us together. It’s love that will win the day.
• Staying on that theme, pay it forward, Portlanders. The only way to combat poverty and hate is with love. It transcends all. See someone having a bad day? Offer them a hand or a smile. Do something nice for a stranger.
• Stand up and confront racism. It's not up to people of color to address inequities in our systems and personal experiences. Have hard conversations. Make people uncomfortable. Learn. Grow. Change.
• Call your local and state legislators this holiday season and let them know you expect them to do everything in their power to support smart progressive legislation in 2017. That includes tenant protections, revenue for affordable housing, strong environmental laws, criminal justice reform and mental health resources. We want it all!
• Get to know your neighbors. You know, the people who live right next to you. It’s not too late to say hello and possibly even deliver someone on your block some tasty treats you’re making for your holiday affair.
• Donate your expertise or time to a local nonprofit or activist group. You can connect to volunteer opportunities through Hands on Greater Portland and the United Way of Columbia-Willamette.
• Own a small or large business? Pick a nonprofit to support annually. This could be as simple as donating your expertise or a portion of your sales for a day or working to find a way to support that specific nonprofit for an entire year. Being able to grow and learn with a specific nonprofit over the long haul oftentimes comes with lasting impacts and builds lifelong relationships that have the potential to create real change in our community.
• Purchase a Street Roots weekly, and introduce the newspaper and concept to your family and friends living in the Portland region. Stop and talk to your neighborhood vendor. Street Roots provides a safe place for individuals to engage with people on the streets in a positive atmosphere. Spread the word!
• Give to one or all of the 141 organizations highlighted in the Willamette Week’s Give!Guide through Dec. 31. There is something in the Give!Guide for everyone — ranging from helping organizations working on important issues including the environment, education, the arts, and animal, civil and human rights. Plus, you’ll get some great incentives in return.
• Give a donation to one or all of the following organizations working to create systems change in our community. Street Roots, the ACLU of Oregon, Causa (Oregon’s immigrant rights organization), the Urban League of Portland, Partnership for Safety and Justice, Bark, the Rural Organizing Project and Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette are just a few organizations that need your support.
• Give a donation or winter gear to JOIN, an outreach organization working around the clock to connect with our neighbors on the streets. Donating gloves, socks and sleeping bags this winter could help save someone’s life.
From all of us at Street Roots, we appreciate your readership and support of vendors selling the newspaper. Giving a hand up and getting a great read in return is our goal. Thank you for making that possible. Happy holidays!
Israel Bayer is the executive director of Street Roots. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @israelbayer.