Street Roots

for those who cannot afford free speech

Our Mission

Street Roots creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty by producing a newspaper and other media that are catalysts for individual and social change.



Cynthia can be brought to tears when she witnesses the goodness in people. “The other day I started crying because of my customer,” Cynthia explains, tears filling her eyes again. “She gave me a buck, then her grandma, who she was with, pulled out money and said she didn’t want the paper, but she wanted to donate to me. After I thanked them, the customer said,  ‘Anything for you. That’s why we’re here; to help you.’ That touched my heart. She just brightened my day.”

Cynthia sells on NW 23rd Ave, typically at the Starbucks on Hoyt. There the baristas know her by name. “I’ve got this one for you,” the man behind the counter tells her with a smile giving her a free refill.

“The people here are awesome,” Cynthia says enthusiastically, “They brighten my day. That’s why I love this job. It’s like a blessing from God. God decides what he wants me to live on for the day.”

A strong faith in Christianity has helped Cynthia get through tough times in her life. She is an active member of Carus United Methodist Church and attends most weekends when she visits her parents in Oregon City. Cynthia’s faith in people has gotten her into trouble in the past. “I have an innocent mind. I believe everybody’s word and everybody’s word down here isn’t always true.”

“Street Roots has really been a blessing to me,” she says. “Before I started with Street Roots I was down and out and I was homeless and not doing too good and I just felt lost. Having Street Roots in my life has helped me have purpose. I’m doing this not only for myself, but it’s a gift from God to help me in my heart. I’m a people person.”

She is also a family person. The mother of three boys, Cynthia has gotten her oldest son William involved as a Street Roots vendor. She was brought to the paper by her boyfriend Don, who sells close by at the Starbucks on NW 21st and Lovejoy. Her dream is to get married to Don. And possibly move somewhere warm. After a lifetime in Oregon, Cynthia may be ready to get out of the rain.

Cynthia and Don are in shelter now, but having experienced homelessness in her past makes Cynthia keen to help others.

She often gives money she makes selling Street Roots to other people on the streets.

“We always pick one person to give a dollar or more to,” she says. “I love to help people. It’s kind of like pay it forward; that’s my motto. It keeps the world going round because homeless people need help. I’m almost homeless myself; I’m in a motel, which is right off the streets. Now I’m trying to get enough money to get first and last months rent and a deposit to move into a better place. People give me hand-ups so I like to hand up too.”

Cole Merkel, Contributing Writer

Our Friends Speak About Street Roots

Street Roots and its writers and vendors are an invaluable part of our community's fabric. Social justice is only within our grasp only when we all participate in learning about, supporting, and fighting for this mission. Street Roots is a daily reminder, on blocks throughout Portland, that we are all in this together.

- Mara Zepeda, co-founder, Switchboard