PSU comics illustrate the reality of homeless students

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland State University collaborative storytelling project aims to bring about change regarding the narrative surrounding homelessness through ethnographic caricatures based on the lived experience of the PSU students about housing insecurity.

In partnership with PSU’s Homeless Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC), Street Roots, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center, the project utilized research led by PSU instructor Kacy McKinney, the talents of 10 cartoonists from Portland-based comics and the untold stories of PSU. students to produce 10 cartoons that illustrate the reality of homeless students.

“There’s something about the language of comics that allows us to connect in a different way than if we were reading a book or listening to a podcast,” McKinney said in a Portland State magazine article. “The hope is that these stories resonate… that they reach people in unexpected ways and change the way we think, talk and teach about homelessness and poverty.”

Although 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 had experienced homelessness in 2020, and 44.6% of PSU students struggled with housing insecurity. Those numbers were higher for students of color.

“Dr. McKinney’s comics project reflects exactly the kind of work that PSU is known for and that HRAC’s co-founders dreamed of supporting,” said Marisa Zapata, director of the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative. “Encouraging our students by telling their stories about homelessness as graphic novels shows why homelessness is so important and how we can move forward together as a community.”

She continued, “I am moved by every story, every panel, every student’s life that I see in these pages. I appreciate and respect their willingness to share their lives, and I hope they have gotten as much out of this project as the readers. I thank Dr. McKinney for her vision and her commitment to creating impactful research that matters to people with lived experiences of homelessness who are also PSU students.”

For Daniela Ortiz, one of the 10 participating students who shared her experience with homelessness, the project was an opportunity to fight stigmas 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,” he shared in a Portland State magazine article. real reasons why we have homeless people. I hope people see that housing instability has many different faces and many different realities.”

PSU has partnered with Street Roots, the Independent Publishing Resource Center and The Downstairs Galley to bring the stories inside complex cartoons to audiences.

According to PSU, the comic will be available through Street Roots vendors beginning February 2.

Street Roots CEO Kaia Sand told KOIN 6 News that the collaborative effort is a beautiful and carefully crafted project that they are proud to be a part of.

“This post features visual forms of storytelling to honor ten people and their diverse experiences of being homeless sleeping in shelters, on couches, under the stars, against a backpack in the MAX, on a playground slide, inside apartments in poor condition. Sand said. “Here in this luminous gathering of visual stories, we say, please listen. Please pay attention. Please read, and worry.”

Throughout February, the artwork and corresponding stories will also be on display in two exhibits:

In association with Downstairs Gallery and artist Daren Todd, the project will open 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 of your website.

An additional free viewing opportunity for PSU students and staff will be held at the PSU Native American Student and Community Center, 710 SW Jackson St., Portland. February 15 to 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Due to the success of the project, PSU has announced plans to fundraise and develop an additional 10 comics with the goal of publishing 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 donate here.

A list of the team, including contributing students, artists, and researchers, can be viewed here.


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