PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Portland State University collaborative storytelling project aims to bring about change in the narrative surrounding homelessness through ethnographic cartoons based on the lived experience of PSU students. housing insecurity.
In partnership with PSU’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative (HRAC), Street Roots, and Independent Publishing Resource Center, the project utilized research led by PSU instructor Kacy McKinney, the talents of 10 Portland-based comic artists and the untold stories of PSU students to produce 10 cartoons illustrating the reality of student homelessness.
“There’s something about comic book language that allows us to connect in a different way than if we were reading a book or listening to a podcast,” McKinney said in an article for Portland State Magazine. “The hope is that these stories will resonate…that they will touch people in unexpected ways and change the way we think, speak and teach about homelessness and poverty.”
While the 10 stories shared by PSU students are unique, data from a 2020 HRAC report suggests they are not alone in their shared experience of housing insecurity.
According to the report, nearly one in six PSU students experienced homelessness in 2020, and 44.6% of PSU students struggled with housing insecurity. These numbers were higher for students of color.
“Dr. McKinney’s comic book project reflects the exact type of work that PSU is known for, and the HRAC co-founders dreamed of supporting it,” said Marisa Zapata, director of PSU’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative. “Encouraging our students to tell their stories of homelessness in graphic novel form shows why this issue is so important and how we can move forward together as a community.
She continued, “I am moved by every story, every sign, every student life that I see on these pages. I appreciate and respect their willingness to share their lives, and I hope they got as much out of this project as the readers. I thank Dr. McKinney for his vision and commitment to creating research with impact that matters to people with lived experiences of homelessness who are also UPS students.
For Daniela Ortiz, one of 10 participating students to share their experience of homelessness, the project was an opportunity to challenge stigma and see herself represented.
“I need to stop being ashamed of my childhood and what my reality could be, I want people to see me and hear my story,” she shared in a Portland State Magazine article. to despise homelessness and look at the real reasons why we have homelessness.I hope people see that housing instability has many different faces and many different realities.
PSU has partnered with Street Roots, Independent Publishing Resource Center and The Downstairs Galley to bring the stories contained in the intricate cartoons to the public.
According to PSU, the comic will be available through Street Roots sellers starting February 2.
Street Roots executive director Kaia Sand told KOIN 6 News that the collaborative effort is a beautiful, carefully crafted project that they are proud to be a part of.
“This post elevates the visual forms of storytelling to honor ten people and their diverse experiences of homelessness sleeping in shelters, on couches, under the stars, backpacking on the MAX, on a slide in the backyard of recreation, inside apartments in disrepair,” Sable said. “Here in this luminous gathering of visual stories, we say, please listen. Please be careful. Please read – and pay attention.
Throughout February, the artworks and corresponding stories will also be displayed in two exhibitions:
In partnership with Downstairs Gallery and artist Daren Todd, the project will be presented to the public at 124 SW Yamhill St., Portland, on February 12 from 5-8 p.m. Private tours will be available by appointment on February 13, via their website.
An additional free viewing opportunity for PSU students and staff will take place at the PSU Native American Student and Community Center, 710 SW Jackson St., Portland. February 15 to 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Due to the success of the project, PSU announced plans to raise funds and develop 10 more comics with the goal of releasing all 20 in the future.
To fund the research and publication of the second storytelling project, the team hopes to raise $40,000. Those interested in supporting the progress of the project can make a donation here.
A list of the team, including contributing students, artists and researchers, can be viewed here.