About The Participants

The Humanizing Homelessness project features six different individuals from the Portland metro area. These six people each have their own diverse life experiences and perspectives on the issue of housing. We sought to understand and learn from each of their stories.

Taylor Seymore

Taylor Seymore, a Behavior Support Coordinator/Supervisor at the assisted living facility SL Start is immersed in the homeless community every day for her profession. Working with adults who suffer from cognitive impairment and mental health illnesses, a large percentage of her residents are homeless or have houseless backgrounds, and even more of that group is reliant on social security.

Seymore voiced a significant concern in the realm of resource access as well as the design of mental health support systems in Portland, and Oregon as a whole. The severe lack of resources for the impaired and burdened people she treats daily sees a snowball effect where they have little to no access to health care providers, but in the chance they do, their homelessness or locationally inconvenient situation prohibits them to keeping up with mandatory check ins and requirements to continue being medicated - thus thrusting their issues back to square one.

Dealing with mental health is something Seymore describes as relating to the self actualization sector of the hierarchy of needs, but this is something that is near impossible for the homeless and impaired population to fulfill when their base primary needs - food, living space, and healthcare - are not met. Despite Oregon being a safer place for homeless due to the comparatively forgiving climate of the Pacific Northwest opposed to the midwest or east coast, the foundations in place both politically and procedurally in Portland are simply not designed to help those who suffer from mental health.

Seymore informs that in her experience, the biggest thing to take away is that these marginalized peoples are perceived as different due a lifestyle choice they have control over. This is simply not true. These people suffer medical and social barriers every single day, but the only concern in Portland seems to be the curb appeal that is diminished by their camps. At the end of the day, these people just want to be loved and feel safe.

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“People just want someone to love them, to feel safe, and to feel like they have a purpose.” - Taylor Seymore

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Callie Lathrop

Callie Lathrop, program coordinator and trainer at a social service agency based out of Portland as well as a volunteer consistently immersed in the homeless community, has hours of exposure hands on within the homeless communities. Experiencing first hand the systematic oppression and structural inequality that plagues any potential prosperity in the houseless communities of Portland, Lathrop has lots of experience in witnessing the lack of support available for these groups.

Despite being privileged enough to classify themselves as a housed and able bodied individual, Lathrop still advocates for the proper aid to the people she assists daily. Lathrop preaches that just being an ally and supporting from the sidelines isn’t enough to aid the massively growing houseless communities, but rather going in and getting your hands dirty is what it takes to make a difference.

The perspective of these marginalized and impoverished group is once at Lathrop has witnessed as a clear and crippling shame - knowing that these homeless people face the same human struggles and work just as hard, if not harder, than a housed individual, but an unfortunate lack of help or wrong choice put them in a stance to where they are perceived as weak and different than the everyday housed Portlander.

In a city that prides itself on acceptance and community, the alienation and degradation of it’s marginalized homeless community is something Lathrop has seen enough of.

"There is a difference between being an ally, and an accomplice. There is a lot of media around being an ally…. Being an ally is not enough. You need to be an accomplice. You need to actually engage with folks." - Callie Lathrop


Damien, who wished to remain anonymous [beyond his first name] is someone who knows the streets of Portland well because of his time spent living in them - out of work and houseless. Moving to Portland at a very young age, Damien has been located out of Multnomah and Washington County for the majority of his life.

Incurring massive prices of child support on top of rent in Portland, the costs of living outweighing his income forced Damien onto the streets of East Portland. Losing his job in the process as he didn’t have a way to stay clean, Damien was left with no food, no house, and still monthly costs he could not afford.

The battle of homelessness was a daily struggle that came brutally packaged with depression, as well as a dreadful sense of embarrassment over working extremely hard to make ends meet and still being stranded on the bottom. Damien described times where he would spend the whole night just walking with his head on a swivel - crippled by the fear of sleeping defenseless in an area of East Portland that at the time was teeming with gang violence.

Eventually being placed in Bud Clark Commons through Transition Projects (TPI), Damien was able to get his feet under him and get a job once a place to sleep and clean himself was presented to him. Despite being housed, rising prices on stop of continuing child support still sees Damien barely making ends meet, approaching the poverty line yet again as rent prices in Washington and Multnomah County continue to rise unparalleled to income.

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"There were nights where I had zero idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do. When you’re trying to find a place to shelter up at, for anybody like me who had to learn to keep my head on a swivel, I couldn't simply sleep." -Damien

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Gary Cobb

Gary Cobb, community outreach coordinator at Central City Concern in Portland has been involved with ccc since the fall of 2000 - both taking advantage of and providing services.

Homeless in the Pacific Northwest since the late 1970’s, Cobb was saved off the street by Central City Concern in 2000. Doing janitorial work while utilizing their housing, Cobb found the work he did at Central City Concern meaningful, sticking with his employment there until today where he changes thousands of lives every year.

Sharing information on the services Central City Concern provides, the units they have, and the variety of types of people they help out, information Cobb provided can be seen in our resources tab (put a rel link here) with more information on the organization

"Our mission is helping create stabilizing services for folks experiencing homelessness." -Gary

Jacob Drefchinski

Jacob Drefchinski, a current supervisor of a specialist team for a cable company, is a former member of the homeless community. Though his stint with homelessness is a self-described outlier as he voluntarily subjected himself to living out of his car for five months, the struggles he faced were still very real and eye opening.

Evading a tough and hostile living environment, Jacob decided to move out of his at the time living situation and was forced to live out of his car for the safest option. Despite this being objectively safer than roaming the streets or staying in the woods, the hardships of houselessness was still something Drefchinski dealt with near daily - whether it be waking up to someone looking into his windows or having to travel to get access to showers or running water to fulfill personal hygiene needs.

Drefchinski was extremely fortunate that his situation and employment still permitted him to meet hygiene needs, had technology access, some source of income and even have available support systems, but he understands that not all people have the same privileges in houselessness that he did.

His experience living out of his truck was extremely eye opening in truly teaching himself self-sufficiency, something that people tend to take for granted living in the comfort of their homes. That sense of self-sufficiency also taught Drefcinski truly how hard working the homeless community tends to be - a divergence from the misconception of laziness that often comes with the homeless community.

Getting up every day and just surviving with the limited resources at one's disposal is a huge battle that people within the community face day in and day out.

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"There are great and terrible people who have homes, there are also great and terrible people who don’t have homes." -Jacob

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Martha Hansen

Martha Hansen, a Head Start educator for Community Action in Hillsboro, Oregon, is an active member in aiding the houseless and impoverished community as well as someone who spent portions of her childhood immersed in these communities.

At a young age, Hansen engaged with the youth homelessness scene in the China Town region of Portland. Surrounded by a tight knit community with aid in place in the form of birth control, medicine and even clean needles for drug users, Hansen describes that the homeless scene in Portland now is nothing like she could have imagined when she was young - explosive in volume in recent years.

As a now active member in aiding these growing communities, Hansen stresses that dealing with the houseless and impoverished is a matter of the small personal things. The simple gestures like checking in on someone and listening to their problems is a huge booster in mental health - something so many of these community members struggle with.

Despite the personal connection going a long way, the uplifting of individuals and communities is only attainable with resources. The lack of funding to provide fulfillment of basic needs - clean clothes, showers, medicine etc creates a snowball effect for the struggling families who feel the pressure even harder and collapse into a hopeless perception, allowing for more struggle to follow suit.

The lack of hygiene access also limits the appeal in job interviews, thus putting income out of the question in recovery. Hansen emphasizes that the few resources that are in place are designed for crisis aversion, but do little to nothing once a crisis has already occurred, and that needs to change.

"Our programs seem to help those in crisis, and they only put a bandage. They don’t help to prevent crises or to keep them out of it. " -Martha Hansen