November 10th, 2004 Dave Fitzpatrick | Special Section Stories
 

THE BROKEN HALO

Homeless advocate Michael Stoops

     
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Michael Stoops, 1987
Thanks in part to the trickle-down policies of the Reagan era, homelessness blighted the mid-'80s socioeconomic landscape. In Portland, destitute men, women and children took shelter where they could: in doorways, under bridges, in homeless shelters and cheap motels.

Back then, the hungry could at least always count on a hot meal at Baloney Joe's, a squat, brick shelter run by the Burnside Community Council whose empty shell still haunts the east end of the Burnside Bridge.

The patron saint of Baloney Joe's was an articulate, charismatic ex-Quaker named Michael Stoops, who had a knack for getting the news media to focus on a problem many people preferred to ignore. Under Stoops, Baloney Joe's provided food, shelter, job assistance and--for some young patrons--something far more sinister.

On Nov. 19, 1987, WW published the disturbing results of a four-month investigation into allegations that Stoops habitually recruited underage boys from Baloney Joe's, took them to his room at the Butte Hotel and engaged in sex with them.

In the course of the investigation, WW secured medical records showing Stoops had contracted gonorrhea of the throat and, moreover, had passed on the infection to at least one of his youthful charges.

The day the paper hit the street, Stoops took a leave of absence and the BCC commissioned attorney Don Marmaduke to investigate the allegations.

Three months later, Marmaduke's report echoed WW's conclusions. "To the extent he satisfies his sexual needs with those who are disadvantaged in comparison to him, or who place special trust in him, it is exploitive," he wrote.

Stoops resigned from his post the same day.

The only public statement he ever made concerning Marmaduke's damning report came in January 1988. "I do not want my own mistakes to be used as an excuse for anyone to withhold support for a cause I believe in," he said--and promptly vanished from the spotlight.

Flash forward 17 years. At 54, Stoops is still an advocate for the underprivileged--now as a community organizer for the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C.

Though the NCH has no affiliate in Portland, it bills itself as the oldest and largest advocacy group in the nation, with member coalitions in all 50 states who research, lobby for, educate and--like Stoops--organize the homeless.

"He definitely works with people of all ages," says NCH executive director Donald Whitehead, Stoops' direct supervisor, who explained he had never heard a thing about the circumstances surrounding Stoops' departure from Portland.

"I've seen no signs of deviant behavior since making his acquaintance," says Whitehead, who requested a copy of the WW article. "I can assure you, he's doing some incredible work."

Stoops didn't respond to WW's calls or email. But apparently he has been busy crusading against the spate of "Bum Fight" videos.

These DVDs feature homeless men and women who are bribed with money or alcohol into committing such repugnant acts as fistfighting, drinking urine and Windex, and setting their hair on fire. Another variation is "bum hunting," in which the homeless victims are assaulted, thrust into a straitjacket, tossed in a pickup and paraded around.

Stoops organized a successful campaign against the videos, extracting promises from Amazon.com, Target, Virgin Mega Stores, Barnes and Noble, and Blockbuster.com to "immediately stop selling these videotapes or DVDs...[and] pledge to never purchase these violent exploitative films that depict homeless people as props in a voyeuristic display of depravity."

Stoops has also racked up the miles on the lecture circuit over the past several years, with appearances at the Universities of Tennessee, Kansas and West Florida.

In 2002, he stood before a soon-to-be-closed shelter in Las Vegas and chided Mayor Oscar Goodman for his police sweeps of homeless encampments and frequent use of the word "bum."

Last year, he spoke at a "sleep out" in Covington, Ky., and this October he visited Little Rock, Ark., where he addressed a crowd of 1,500 and registered the homeless to vote.

Nor has Stoops lost his flair for a sound bite. He has been quoted in the Boston Globe, the Las Vegas Review, the Portland Phoenix of Maine, and a smattering of college and homeless newspapers.

So what's next for the charismatic activist?

"I do plan to have a discussion with Michael," says his boss, Whitehead.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Intro | Tonya's Mob: Tonya Harding, Jeff Gillooly & Shawn Eckardt | The Crusader: Gordon Shadburne | The Meteor: Billy Ray Bates | Satan's Pilgrim: Rex Diabolos Church | The Firebrand: Ron Herndon | The Bad Boy: Frank Peters | The Broken Halo: Michael Stoops | The Crack Mother: Anita Nichols | The Veejay: Kennedy | The Girl from Electra: Treva Throneberry | The Perfect Victim: Azalea Cooley | The Grappler: Dutch Savage | Wonder Boy: Pat Gillis | The Ex-Files: Marcia & Steve Moskowitz | The Witness: Dave Mazzella | The Prankster: Igor Vamos | The Intern: Monica Lewinsky | The Runaways: Diane Walden & Peter | Top Cop: Mark Kroeker | Sprawl Kitten: Kate Schiele | Authority Figure: Rocky Balada | The Hulk: Dry Dock 4 | The Candidate: Gail Shibley | The Super: Ben Canada | The Organ Grinder: Dr. William J. Brady | Pillars of the Community: The Lovejoy Columns | The Survivor: Giles Thompson | The Contender: Andy Minsker | Space Invader: The Phantom Dialer | The Red Menace: Ma Anand Sheela

 
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