Michael Stoops, the director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, has died at age 67.

In 1987, Stoops was a major figure in Portland. He led the Burnside Community Council, which ran a variety of services for the homeless, including a clinic, a women’s hotel and an homeless shelter at 313 East Burnside St. named Baloney Joe’s.

In the winter of 1987, Stoops and and another advocate named Mitch Snyder led a group that slept outside the Library of Congress for many nights to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. That action, later referred to as “The Great American Sleep-Out,” is credited with helping galvanize support for a major piece of legislation called the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

But later that year, on Nov. 19, WW published a cover story that reported Stoops regularly had sex with homeless boys under the age of 18 who’d come to Baloney Joe’s seeking assistance.

Stoops’ allies tried to discredit the story, which included numerous on-the-record sources and evidence from Stoops’ medical records.

The Burnside Community Council, Stoops’ employer, hired Don Marmaduke, a downtown lawyer, to do an independent investigation. Marmaduke’s report confirmed WW‘s reporting and Stoops resigned immediately.

“I do not want my own mistakes to be used as an excuse for anyone to withhold support for a cause I believe in,” Stoops said after the report was released.

Stoops was never charged with a crime relating to Baloney Joe’s. He left Portland and moved to Washington, D.C., where he became a founding board member of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Stoops became the group’s executive director in 2004 and also helped found the North American Street Newspaper Association. Stoops suffered a stroke in 2015, and went on leave from NCH at that time.

Editorial Comment

“My own experience with Michael was that he was pugnacious,  assuming that everyone would grasp the immediacy of his urgent aims and objectives to educate and change the community from seeing people without a place to live, who lived in public spaces, to be recognized as invaluable citizens afforded the rights and privileges as anyone who is housed.”