Jason Everly came to Portland more than 17 years ago to do service with AmeriCorps.
“It was one of the hardest, but one of the best, things that I ever did for myself,” Jason said.
“I was on what they called an EnviroCorps Team,” he said. “We were kind of an offshoot of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was an 11-member team, and we did everything from disconnecting downspouts to riparian zone repair. The riparian zone is this area between the bank of the creek and 10 to 12 feet inland.”
His team also built trails and six bridges in Forest Park.
“There are two miles that I know intimately, like the back of my hand: from Fire Lane 51 to Old Germantown Road,” he said.
After his AmeriCorps stint, Jason was an instructor for a job training program at Sisters of the Road, a nonprofit café that provides meals plus opportunities for the homeless.
“Before I went to AmeriCorps, I was a cook for 16 years,” Jason said. At Sisters, “I took people who didn’t have any work history or experience and trained them in different sections. They would wash dishes for a week, they’d help prep for a week and they would plan menus with me for a week – just to give them some experience.”
After his instructor job, Jason hit some rough patches in life and summed it up this way: “I go through cycles of kind of getting it together and things falling apart.”
Through Central City Concern, a nonprofit that serves the homeless, he found jobs from managing a catering office at PGE Park to working as an employment assistant helping others find jobs.
He complimented Central City Concern: “They provide treatment, jobs and housing in this community, and they’re the best at providing all three of those. It’s kind of a holistic thing, you know? All three of those things are really important to integrate and try and get somebody’s act together.”
Jason started selling the Street Roots newspaper two months ago, and his usual turf is at Next Adventure, a sporting goods store at Southeast Grand Avenue and Stark Street.
“It’s given me the ability to offer something in return, rather than just panhandling,” he said.
“The biggest thing is that when people finally do come and buy a paper, is that they start to see you. Believe me, 90 percent of the people are walking right on by – they don’t see you, and they don’t want to. They don’t want to face the fact that someone’s suffering, regardless of whether it’s by their own hand or not. But the ones that do buy the paper, they see you.”
Jason also finds that the Street Roots office is a respite from the street.
“Every day I go in, and there are certain things that I do,” he said. “I get coffee and do a chore if I need to earn some papers. It helps knowing that there’s a place that I can go. I don’t have to get a receipt to use the bathroom. I can have some dignity.”
“And I can be myself,” Jason said. “Nobody’s really judging me.”