If ever you walk past the OnPoint bank at Northeast Ninth Avenue and Broadway, you may notice a grinning woman set apart from the crowd by her sizeable, fluffy, blond mullet. That woman’s name is Sherri Banning and she has been wearing her hair in a mullet for over 20 years. “I’ve always had a mullet, so that’s how people know me by,” she says.
Akin to a sort of headdress, Sherri’s hair lends her a regal air while her smiling eyes and soft voice betray her kind and gentle nature. It is this sense of calm surrounding her, along with her happy greetings and well wishes, that draw the minds of passerby off their daily worries and to-dos long enough to reciprocate the greeting and perhaps buy a paper.
Born and raised in Portland, Sherri, Roosevelt High School Class of 1985, has watched the city change over the years. “I’ve seen Portland grow, big time,” she says. In fact, Portland’s growing multiculturalism is part of what makes selling Street Roots so enjoyable for Sherri. “I like the cultural, the different nationalities and just to talk to everybody. So, yeah, I like it. It’s a lot of fun. You meet a lot of people.”
However, of all the people she meets, Sherri is most fond of the children to whom she gives stickers if their parents say they behaved well in the bank. Having six children and seven grandchildren of her own, Sherri knows how to hit it off with kids. “It’s fun when you get the grandkids. You get to spoil them and send them back home full of sugar,” she says. Indeed, Sherri’s smile is biggest when talking about her family. “I love my kids,” she adds. “I’d do anything for them.”
Today, Sherri lives in a house close to her selling spot, where she and her son with special needs have been living since 2004. She proudly points out that, after many years of struggling with financial instability and evictions, she now pays her rent early every month. This stability is the result of a long, difficult journey from shelter to shelter over many years, after which Sherri eventually was able to move out of the shelter systems.
Along with her own tenacity and determination, she points to organizations such as Transition Projects and Ready-to-Rent, a rental housing education program, as what finally helped her escape a cycle of evictions and homelessness. “If people don’t think they can do it, go to Ready-to-Rent. Get yourself a second chance,” Sherri insists. “That’s what it was for me.”
This past December Sherri became a Street Roots vendor in order to help pay for her family’s basic living needs.
Now, Sherri takes life day-by -day, working selling Street Roots a few days a week while other days taking care of her home, her son, and her cat Taz, in addition to coping with her own medical problems. She looks forward to the coming sunny months when it will be easier for her to enjoy spending time outside. And, like a true Portland native, Sherri follows Blazers games religiously. Some of her favorite players are Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Eric Maynor. So next time you want the latest issue of Street Roots plus a recap of last night’s game, visit Sherri in Northeast. You will know her by her signature, blond mullet and her genuine interest in how you are doing today.