New Comics Chronicle Homelessness as Experienced by Portland College Students

The comics and an accompanying exhibit are a collaboration between Portland State University, Street Roots, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center.

In a new series of comic books, 10 Portland college students recount their experiences with homelessness and housing insecurity.

“My hope is that these stories, these works of art, will resonate,” said Portland State University instructor Kacy McKinney, who led the project, in a press release. “I hope that they will touch people in unexpected ways, and change the way we think, talk and teach about homelessness and poverty,”

The project, called Changing the Narrative, is a collaboration between PSU, Street Roots, the Independent Publishing Resource Center and 10 local artists. Street Roots is publishing the comics.

Changing the Narrative will also feature an accompanying exhibit at The Downstairs Gallery at 124 SW Yamhill St.

Kaia Sand, executive director of Street Roots, said the project “lifts up visual forms of storytelling to honor 10 people and their diverse experiences of homelessness sleeping in shelters, on couches, under the stars, against a backpack on the MAX, on a slide in the playground, inside apartments in disrepair.”

The comics focus primarily on the experiences of students from historically marginalized groups, including people of color, individuals with disabilities and LGBTQAI+ individuals. Street Roots will begin selling the comics Feb. 2 and carry them until all 4,000 copies are sold.

Changing the narrative was funded by a grant from PSU’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative.

“Uplifting our students in telling their stories about homelessness as graphic novels demonstrates why this issue is so vital and how to move forward together,” said HRAC director Marisa Zapata in the press release. “I am moved by each story, each panel, each student’s life I see on these pages.”