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CareOregon, Street Roots partner to help expand services for people experiencing houselessness

Dec 11, 2023, 21:49 PM

CareOregon employees pose together with hard helmets on building construction site

As part of ongoing efforts to invest in organizations that serve Oregon Health Plan members, CareOregon has awarded Street Roots $100,000 to support the construction of their new building located in Old Town Portland. The new building will provide expanded services to Street Roots vendors, have offices for Street Roots writers and serve as a hub for information about programs supporting the houseless community.

“Our vision for the space was inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with each level fulfilling a core human need and want,” said Kaia Sand, Street Roots executive director. “We wanted a space that would provide our vendors with everything from basic needs such as showers and laundry to opportunities for self-fulfillment such as wellness services, community spaces and workforce development.   

Street Roots, a weekly newspaper, is sold by people experiencing homelessness and/or extreme poverty, also known as vendors. Active vendors purchase copies of the newspaper for 25 cents each, then sell them on the streets of Portland for $1 as a way to make an income. Currently, Street Roots serves more than 800 vendors each year, a majority of whom are unhoused.

"Our vendors and staff have nearly doubled over the years, and we needed a space that could match that demand,” said Sand. “We’re excited for Street Roots’ new home and the opportunities it will open up for our vendors and community. We look forward to expanding our programming and meeting the increasing needs of people on the streets.”

The exterior of a blue building on burnside

The new 6,000 square foot ADA accessible building located on the corner of 3rd and Burnside consists of multiple levels, with each floor reflecting one of the tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: basic needs, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization.

The basement will help fulfill basic needs such as showers, washers and dryers, as well as a wellness center, a beauty center and a general space for mental health respite.

The first floor will be a resource center where vendors can access supplies such as clothing, hand warmers and naloxone, seek support from staff, pick up newspapers, read in the library area and enjoy a warm drink at the coffee counter. There will also be seating available, a listening space for civic engagement, as well as restrooms and wheelchair charging stations. Administrative offices are also located on this floor. 

Moving up to the second floor, Street Roots will have dedicated offices for the publication’s journalists.

Followed by the “School in the Sky” on the third floor. This space will provide opportunities for self-actualization. It includes a sound studio and opens out to a rooftop patio that will be used as a learning space for classes and workforce development, including the Street Roots’ mobile journalism program— where vendors are able to take a six-week crash course on digital media foundations, multimedia storytelling, community engagement, project management and communications skills, while paid a stipend.

As an added bonus, the building will provide free, high speed wifi for the Old Town community.

The building is projected to increase the number of people served, including raising the average vendor income from $12,000/year to $16,000/year and doubling the number of jobs vendors secure.

Construction on the building is set to be completed at the end of 2023.

"CareOregon is proud to invest in Street Roots’ new home," said Shawn DeCarlo, CareOregon director of community impact. “Spaces like this fill a critical gap in services for those experiencing houselessness. We’re excited to see this building come to life and look forward to all the ways it will better serve our community."

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