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Comic book profiles 10 PSU students' struggles with housing instability

The comic is meant to change the narrative about homelessness and housing instability when it comes to college students.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland State University (PSU) has released a comic book that profiles 10 students who've recently dealt with housing instability. 

Dr. Kacy McKinney works in PSU's Urban Studies and Planning Department. She created the project to help inspire change in the way people think about housing instability. 

She put out a call for students who have experienced housing instability. They were interviewed and artists turned their stories into a comic book.

"People becoming homeless because they were living in poverty as a child or people who had an injury and they lost work and were financially unable to find housing or they were discriminated against and could not find housing," McKinney said when talking about some of the challenges the students profiled in the comic have faced. 

Daniela Ortiz Mendez is one of the PSU students featured in the comic. Her family came to the United States from Mexico when she was young. 

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She said her family had a lot of financial struggles. The comic book describes her living in 10 different places between the ages of 3 and 17. She said when she got into college, the housing instability did not stop. When she wanted to focus more on school, she ended up losing her job.

"Nobody knew what I was going through ever. My teachers didn't know, even most recently my clients didn't know what losing this job meant for my housing instability," Mendez said.

A 2019 PSU study found about 44% of 3,500 students surveyed had experienced housing instability that year, and about 16% had experienced homelessness. 

Mendez said she finally has her own apartment, but she just also wants to spread awareness about this issue.

"I went through a lot of emotional trauma based off how much I had to move, the places I had to live, the people I had to live with. It was a lot," Mendez said.

The comic can be found at Street Roots vendors across the city. 

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