IN DEFENSE OF THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
As a regular WW reader, I am deeply disturbed and puzzled by your March 7, 2001, article "Return to Dignity: The truth behind one of Portland's most prominent street denizens." The article features a homeless, double-amputee, wheelchaired Vietnam Vet named John Reese, who was convicted of a sex offense 15 YEARS AGO, and who is also coincidentally part of the Dignity Village encampment of formerly homeless people. In an attempt to create more of a story than there really is, the author, Annie Hundley, implies John is the "Grand Marshal" of the entire Dignity Village campaign (not just of the famous Shopping Cart Parades, which is the truth). In truth, there is no "leader" of Dignity Village except those who manifest leadership in the moment. The truth is that John simply contributes his fair share, like other villagers. Hundley is apparently clueless about the leaderless social change phenomenon.
By contrast, Bryan Pollard (who is also quoted in the article) is merely identified as the "editor of street roots, a newspaper by and about homelessness" (sic) [sic]. We are not told of any connection whatsoever between street roots and Dignity Village. The truth is that street roots is the primary sponsoring agency behind Dignity Village. The author also fails to mention that Bryan functions as a street roots coordinator for the Dignity Village campaign. This is a curious omission of relevant information.
John's off-handed candor with Ms. Hundley about patronizing an adult bookstore is trumpeted in the article, apparently to conjure up something besides ancient history to suggest continuing sexual misconduct.
This is more than a little hypocritical in light of how deep WW's hands are into the pockets of Portland's sex industry: Witness the titillating ads by such "adult-oriented" businesses as Fantasy Video, The Palace, Anastasia's, Stars Cabaret, Union Jacks, Hot Lips, Escorts: a full service agency, Fantasyland, Cathie's Lingerie. Are all customers of these establishments now at risk of also being "exposed" by WW, or was this treatment reserved for John alone? And what about WW's own articles that regularly treat a range of unconventional sexual behavior with snickers, winks and nods (see Night Cabbie, Aug. 16, 2000, or Queer Window, Feb. 14, 2001)? The duplicity here is downright astonishing.
It is difficult to dismiss such a glaring string of distortion, omission, duplicity and innuendo as merely sloppy journalism, as it appears to be deliberately crafted to inflict maximum collateral damage on the good reputation of Dignity Village. The truth is that Dignity Village is the most dynamic and positive self-help movement by and for homeless people that this town has seen in a long time. The fact that WW was forced to stoop to such yellow journalism in its puzzling and misguided attempt to discredit Dignity Village indirectly speaks volumes for the integrity and strength of its intended target.
Northwest 18th Avenue
News Editor John Schrag replies:
A few of Mr. Hubbird's statements require clarification. The characterization of Reese as "Grand Marshal" came immediately after a reference to the "famous parade" that Hubbird mentions. The description of street roots actually read "a newspaper by and about the homeless." Finally, we referred to Pollard both as a Camp Dignity founder and as street roots editor; there was no effort to suppress this "relevant information."