Tory Breise is friendly and curious, and he has 2,000 books on his Kindle.
“I like to go around and look at things, talk to people and see what’s going on,” Tory said. “But most of the ideas that I do get are from books.”
Tory went to college in Iowa, where he studied logic and philosophy and earned straight A’s, he said. He also enjoyed writing fiction.
“The first short story that I ever wrote won third prize in my college’s short story contest,” he said. It was “pretty cool.”
His philosophy professor was a mentor.
“We had conversations about religion and philosophy and would sit around the fire and read books,” he said. “She actually taught me how to think about stuff. (It was) the first time I ever had to use my brain.”
But then he lost his way, he said. He rejoined his drunk friends and became homeless in Iowa.
Tory decided to go to Denver to put his life back together in a new place. He found a bartending job, lived in an apartment and began a long-term relationship.
When things fell apart this year, he came to Portland.
Tory said he is taking a break to figure out his life.
“I’m mostly just trying to find a way to be comfortable with myself and the world around me. I don’t know if that makes sense. I thought I knew some things about how the world worked, and I found out that I was mistaken – like love lasts forever and stuff like that.”
To make up for a difficult childhood, Tory uses what he learned in school and in books to understand the world.
“I feel like I started with nothing,” he said. “All these other tools that most well-adjusted individuals were raised with – I never had those. So I’ve been trying to put (those tools) together and learn since then.
“I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is that I’ve been doing to screw myself over. Because I always end up in a situation where I’m like, ‘How did this happen? I’ve done everything right. I’m so smart, I’m well prepared – and everything’s falling apart. It must not be me. It must not have anything to do with me.’ But it happens consistently. So I’m starting to think that maybe I’m bullshitting myself and not even noticing.”
Now Tory is reading books on addictive thinking and practicing mindfulness.
He said for him, becoming a Street Roots vendor has been a step in the right direction.
“Although I am homeless at this point in my life and while this isn’t ideal, we are all still people. We can still have a positive impact on our community, even if all we’re doing is selling a couple of papers, you know? We’re still here; we’re still trying to participate,” he said.
“I’m a real person,” Tory said with a laugh. “I have real thoughts. It’s OK to try to have a conversation with me. If I’m involved in a conversation, I try to leave it like that person’s learned something, that they feel better and they’re glad they’ve talked to me.”
Tory is pondering his next step.
“I was thinking about going to AA for a mentor,” Tory said. “I’m not really struggling with alcoholism right now or drug abuse, but I think that if I get involved with AA, I can have structure and maybe get a mentor.”
Tory has had good feedback from his conversations on the street.
“It helps when (I hear), ‘Hey what are you doing out here? You shouldn’t be here. This doesn’t make any sense. You’re smart. You’re smart enough to get out of here. You don’t need to be homeless.’ I get that a lot, and that’s helpful. I think that helps to build my confidence.
“I think that confidence is one of the main things that I need to transition out of here.”