A letter from Dignity Village

letter to the Portland Tribune, Friday, February 23, 2001

We formerly homeless people at Dignity Village read your frontpage lead story [A voice cries out for dignity, Feb. 13] with great enjoyment and interest.

It was informative, balanced and, for the most part, factually accurate. We are pleased with Bryan Pollard's excellent work on our behalf with the Out of the Doorways campaign, with City Commissioner Erik Sten's willingness to work with us and with the Feb. 26 "Evening of Fasting" our friend and supporter, the Rev. Ronald Williams, is planning for our benefit at the Smith Memorial Ballroom at Portland State University. We hope it will help us find a permanent site.

We also liked the photos that photographer L.E. Baskow took of us. It is a shame that the photo of Dignity Village itself was out-of-date. This morning, there were 45 tents on the small traffic island we occupy and in terms of space, we are virtually full.

In your story, Rob Justus, director of JOIN, asks if Dignity is helping people with the transition from homelessness to housing. Dignity Village is pleased to announce that Dignity's No. 1 soldier, John Reese, has gone into transitional housing.

John, a double-amputee Vietnam era vet, is the grand marshal of our popular shopping cart parades. No one really reached out to John Reese when he lived in a parking lot for most of last August or when he lived under the Broadway Bridge. John's connection with the Out of the Doorways campaign, his role as a Dignity soldier and the attendant publicity that this has generated has helped him find housing.

Tony Swanks, director of operations at Portland Rescue Mission, says that without an address, people living in Dignity won't be able to able to find employment and improve their situation. I would like to point out that many of us already have jobs and that our address is c/o Street Roots, 1231 S.W. Morrison St., Portland, OR 97205. Our situation improves daily, and we are all working for dignity.

The city objects to sanitation issues surrounding urban camps. We point out that both our Port-O-Lets are serviced twice-weekly.

At the suggestion of Street Roots staff member Remona Cowles, we Dignity soldiers began developing our own Web site at our previous location by the Morrison Street Bridge. We also developed a "news service" via e-mail that goes out to four countries. Our Web site address is http://outofthedoorways.org/. We invite anyone interested in who we are to check our Web site or to visit us at Dignity Village.

Jack Tafari
Dignity Soldier
Out of the Doorways coordinator,
Dignity Village