Our vendors: Wally and Chauncey (Street Roots, Portland, USA)

By Helen Hill, Street Roots

If you are lucky enough to happen upon Wally Moreland and Chauncey Trice’s Street Roots turf, consider yourself in for a memorable treat. In fact, stay awhile and talk if you can. I guarantee you will be inspired, entertained and moved by their kindness, generosity and spirit.

This vendor duo has a good word for everyone who passes by. In their own words, they are selling not only a great newspaper, but conversation and bits and pieces of themselves; their personality, philosophy and goals. They believe first and foremost in performing a service that fosters a strong sense of community.

“We need each other,” they said. They also do stand-up comedy shows together. You can catch their pop-up act at Northwest Showcase, Harvey’s Open Mic, the Boiler Room, Brody’s Theater or Blackwater on Broadway.

Chauncey and Wally also volunteer at We Rise II, a group that hands out packed lunches three times a week by the Greyhound station. Wally is the group’s treasurer.

We Rise II is funded completely from public donations and gifts. Chauncey is currently working on a documentary about the project and what it’s like to pass out food to folks on the street. He is an avid filmmaker, photographer, poet and martial arts aficionado. He is developing motivational videos for YouTube, including a cooking show centered on teaching people how to make healthy, fresh meals on a tight budget. He describes himself as goal-oriented, someone who likes to take charge and get things done. He is quick to add, though, that if it wasn’t for his friend, Wally, he wouldn’t be alive today.

Wally came to Portland as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which he said destroyed the culture, community and job security he had known his whole life. He is from hard-working parents, he said, and worked as a successful “job gypsy” on the offshore oil rigs until the hurricane hit. He recalled how his mother and father were evacuated from their home at gunpoint. He experienced the chaos inside the Superdome for six days; a situation he said was “10 times as bad” as the media coverage. He was never able to return to his former life. He was bused to Texas, and from there – with nowhere to go – he eventually arrived in the Pacific Northwest.

Wally and Chauncey met at apprenticeship school at the National Urban Housing and Economic Community Development Corporation in Portland, where they are both enrolled.

They soon realized they had the same core values and wanted the same things: a new start in life, prosperity, housing and job security. They hope to acquire practical carpentry skills that will place them either in the union or in the field. Selling Street Roots provides 60% percent of their essential income while in school. Wally is in transitional housing, and Chauncey is not housed.

Wally and Chauncey always work as a team; they describe themselves as “a pair of socks.” They are good salesmen, but also goodwill ambassadors. When they are out selling Street Roots, they like to say you get two personalities for the price of one. Chauncey is more of an introvert, and Wally is the talker. People seem to gravitate to one or the other accordingly. And they believe in the power of Street Roots both for the excellent reading material and as a way to strengthen community bonds, person by person.

It’s all about the people, they said. And somehow, after just a few minutes with these two, one does indeed feel more a part of the human family.