Erik S. left Denver for Portland in 1998. His parents were living here in a house inherited from Erik’s grandparents.
“I wanted to keep an eye on them and see how they were doing,” he said.
Erik had been working and living with his parents until his mother’s death in February 2016, when things quickly changed for him.
“Her death kind of threw me in a downward spiral. It was just processed too quickly. I didn’t know what to do.”
Erik lost a place to call home and, soon thereafter, steady employment.
He said this is his first time experiencing homelessness: “It’s overwhelming. Nobody expects it.”
Erik found a place to spend nights at City Team Ministries, an overnight men’s shelter in Southeast Portland. There he has met new friends and found some semblance of structure as he moves forward. Things can be tense at the shelter with the inevitability of lost items, personality differences and long nights, but Erik remains positive about the situation as a whole.
Even when things are difficult living in a shelter, Erik is aware of his own shortcomings and tries not to take little situations too seriously. “I’ve got to catch myself sometimes,” he said.
He shared a story about a missing black hat of his that, upon recognizing it was gone for good, he jokingly demanded the forensics unit stop everything to look for it. As he tries to navigate his new situation, Erik takes time to reflect upon all he has learned along the way.
“One thing I discovered, though, when you are homeless, you really have to open up to people. You do not have to tell them your whole life story, but you need to talk to people, learn things that are going on; you’ll start making friends.”
Erik remains grateful for what he has gained despite the loss of his mother and his former way of life.
“You start realizing how much people really do care about you,” he said. “Even though you’re homeless, there’s still a group of people that kind of watch your back, kind of take care of you.”
Erik heard about Street Roots through friends at City Team and has been selling the paper for a few months with the advice of other Street Roots vendors about best sales practices. Erik can be found selling Street Roots at the Starbucks in the Pearl District.
In the meantime, Erik is patiently taking life one day at a time.
“I still want my own place, my own bed,” he said. “I’m still overwhelmed, still trying to figure things out, but I’m working on it.”