From the


December 2, 2001

What They Were Thinking


Bean Dolton and Chris Arno, Portland, Ore., Nov. 9, 2001

Bean Dolton (left): ''We live in Camp Dignity with about 60 to 80 other people. It's a tent city. I don't really call it 'homeless.' I call it 'houseless.' We have an address and a phone number. I got kicked out of my mother's house because I'm gay. Chris said she'd had it, too, and ever since then, we've just been surviving. Yeah, I feel like I'm living in poverty, but we don't have monthly bills to pay. That day the eggs from our cooler were frozen -- that's how cold it's been out here. I'm full-blooded Inuit. It's taken me 17 years to get my papers together to enroll in the tribe. They'll pay for housing if you have your papers. And college, too. That's what I'm planning. I want to be a paralegal or one of those people at 1-800 numbers -- you know, those people who do legal fieldwork, who refer people to cases. I could have gone to work in Alaska this summer, but I slept through the interview. I don't want to lose another opportunity.''

Chris Arno (right): ''When both our parents kicked us out, a friend told us to stay at Dignity. They said it's warmer than staying on the streets. Our tent gets wet on the floor, and it gets cold at night. And I'm a little bit worried about the winter, since we are right by the Columbia River. But I'm pretty happy because we have a place to come home to. It's safe out here because we look out for each other. We should be getting out of here soon. We both have jobs now -- Bean at the Gap, and I start at the Giving Tree for the Salvation Army tomorrow. I've seen some of the refugee camps on TV. It's like Camp Dignity, the way they set up the tents and everything. But we're not starving. I feel lucky. I've got my girl, Bean.''

interviews by Catherine Saint Louis