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About Street Roots

Street Roots — published weekly in Portland, Oregon  —
has been Portland's flagship publication addressing
homelessness and poverty since 1998.

Abigail DeVille

Portland’s story of oppression, through art

Abigail DeVille’s installation at PICA features Street Roots papers, vendor artwork


Helen Hill

November 16, 2018 …

More than a thousand quality-of-life crimes are prosecuted in Multnomah County each year. 

These crimes are typically non-violent, low-level offenses believed to lower the quality of life for people who live in or frequent the area where they are committed. 

They include infringements such as trespassing, disorderly conduct and offensive littering – the charge someone would face for urinating in public – and can result in arrest, being booked into jail, criminal prosecution and in some cases, lengthy jail sentences. 

Police departments across the nation began to increase arrests for these types of crimes in the 1980s and 1990s after criminologists George Kelling and James Wilson suggested a new approach to policing they claimed effectively lowers crime rates. They called it “broken-windows theory” in an article they penned for The Atlantic Monthly in 1982.

The theory is that if police crack down on minor offenses such as vandalism and loitering, it will prevent more serious crimes from creeping in. 

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani credited broken windows policy for the significant drop in crime his city saw in the years following its implementation. His city long served as the shining example of how well broken-windows police tactics work. 

2013 study published in Justice Quarterly found there was no link between broken windows policing and the city’s drop in crime, and after more than 30 years, Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University in Virginia lists broken-windows policing as something it needs to know more about before endorsing.But recent research shows broken-windows policy may have done his city more harm than good, and it’s been concluded other factors, such as increased police presence and a drop in unemployment, likely had a larger effect on New York City’s crime rate than did misdemeanor arrests. 

In many cities, arrests for quality-of-life crimes have drawn increasing criticism as evidence emerged it has resulted in the over-policing and over-jailing of people of color. 

Critics say this approach to policing creates instances where minor crimes have led to excessive force in otherwise harmless situations – such as in the case of Eric Garner, a man who was choked to death during a struggle with Staten Island police when they attempted to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. 

Putting an end to broken-windows policing is a top priority of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Contact Street Roots staff reporter Emily Green at

by Israel Bayer | 22 Oct 2015
Today, making your voice heard about homelessness is more important than it has been in years
Director's Desk logoClick to view larger
Israel Bayer is the Executive Director of Street Roots. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @israelbayer.

Everywhere I go, people ask me, “What can I do to help people experiencing homelessness? I feel helpless, and I’m not sure my voice actually matters.” 

What do I do when people ask me for money on the streets? 

It’s really up to you. The Oregonian asked me the same question this year and this is what I had to say, “Obviously, I’m biased and would encourage people to pick up a Street Roots. Saying that, I have a one quarter or dollar rule. The first person who asks me for change each day gets a little something. After that, I tell people no. It’s a quick and easy way to give, but to not bother myself with the complexities of trying to understand if I should give or why I should give to a specific person.

“I would advise people to be aware of their environment, to use your gut instinct and to give as little or as much as you like. There’s nothing remotely fun about living in poverty and having to beg for money. The idea that people panhandling are somehow are making out like bandits is an urban myth.”

Can I organize my family, friends and/or business to do something for organizations working with people experiencing homelessness? 

Yes, you can. From getting your peer network or business to engage in helping gather materials for organizations working with people experiencing homelessness to crowdsourcing online to help someone stay in their home — this can be a great way to engage and educate your network and do something good for the community. 

How would I go about this? 

Connecting with a nonprofit and asking what specific needs might be is a good place to start. You can also look up nonprofits online and see if organizations have wish lists. For Street Roots, fresh socks and Little Hotties Hand Warmers become lifesavers in winter months. 

Can I offer my labor to support organizations working with people on the streets? 

Yes, you can. Volunteering your expertise is one of the best ways you can get involved. From simply volunteering a day out of your week or month to trying to get on a nonprofit board of directors, your shared experience in the world adds value to many groups working with people on the streets. 

Should I give a donation to a local nonprofit working with people experiencing homelessness? How do I choose who to give to? 

From a little to a lot, it all matters. 

It’s my opinion that you should give to organizations doing a lot with a little. Of course, everyone has a different view on this. Researching organizations that have been effective in providing services without a lot of overhead and organizations that provide successful advocacy efforts are critical at this time.  

There are a lot of ways to think about giving. For example, if you have a family, engaging your children to take part in giving will introduce them to philanthropy at a young age. We know that when younger people are introduced to giving they are more likely to become lifelong donors and volunteers to great causes throughout their lifetime. Plus, it’s a great way to educate your kids on helping others. 

Street Roots also recommends looking to the Willamette Week’s Give!Guide during the months of November and December and giving a donation to one of the many great nonprofits throughout the Portland region. Give!Guide’s launch is right around the corner. 

Businesses can also get involved by giving a percentage of a night’s profits to a local nonprofit working with people on the streets. It’s a great way to engage your customers and to get customers engaged while also supporting your business. Not to mention it’s a tax write-off. 

Beyond giving your time, expertise or money, people want to know how they can help move the issue of housing in our community forward. 

Besides reading Street Roots, two groups you should be following are the Welcome Home Coalition and the Community Alliance of Tenants. They both can be found on Facebook and Twitter. I would also recommend signing up for their newsletters online, which provide you with a lot of opportunities to take action in the community. 

The next thing you can do is contact elected officials and tell them you care about housing. I realize this feels like a hollow action, considering that rhetoric oftentimes outweigh substance in American politics. Saying that, our local government just did declare a state of emergency on housing and homelessness.

I would argue that making your voice heard today is more important than it has been in years — that’s at the local, state and federal level. Elected officials need to hear a clear message that the rental crisis is affecting all Oregonians. We need our City Council members, mayors, state legislators and members of Congress to step up to the plate. We need both new legislation and revenue to support giving all Oregonians a safe place to call home. 

It’s easy to become cynical and jaded when it comes to the issue of homelessness and poverty. Saying that, your support matters. Seriously. Given the opportunity to do something good in your community will make you feel better, and it will also go a long way to support your neighbors. We all need a hand up. It’s up to all of us collectively to chip in and support making our community the best it can be. 

Israel Bayer is the executive director of Street Roots. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @israelbayer.

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