When Donald Morehead arrived in Seattle 17 years ago, he was broke, homeless, had PTSD and was self-medicating to get through the day.
Within hours, other homeless people showed him the ropes. There was a shelter in lower Queen Anne and a street paper office in Belltown.
“I’m like, ‘This is an office? Where do they keep the papers?’ And the guy said, ‘Believe you me, in the morning you’re going to see a lot of people out here.’ So I took his word for it.”
The next day, Donald made $40. He said to himself, “This will work.”
Real Change is reader-supported. Your generous gift to our Summer Fund Drive is a hand-up to more than 700 people like Donald every year.
Change for Donald didn’t come easy. At first he lived apart, dug into a hillside with cans on strings to warn of intruders. Eventually he bought a cheap RV.
But his journey to stability was just beginning.
“I didn’t know that I had mental problems myself. So I was doing a lot of drinking and stuff to cope. The nightmares and the constant repeat of the bad incidents in my head kept me from really talking to people.
“It feels like the whole world is against you. I’d slept in alleyways and made friends with rats. I felt like there was a dark cloud following me around.
“But as the years go by, and you get to knowing people, and people get to knowing and calling you by name. That shell — me not wanting to be around people — started gradually coming off.”
Things changed for Donald when Obamacare passed in 2010. The new federal resources paid for six weeks in a treatment center. After that, federal funds paid for help with the PTSD.
Real Change kept Donald whole until he was ready for the help he needed.
“Real Change helped me make the money I need, the way I needed to make it, with the disability I have. It fits me. Whenever I get those mental flare-ups or feel uneasy or uncomfortable with my surroundings, I can just pack up and leave.”
Now, Donald is four years sober and in permanent housing. He gives back most weeks by helping new vendors learn to sell the paper.
“I know what it takes to get out of the streets and get a roof over your head. That’s why a lot of guys in orientation listen to me. Because they know, ‘Well this guy isn’t just blowin’ sunshine. He knows what he’s talking about.’”
These are times when people like Donald are threatened most. Attacks on Obamacare and other essential services, rising racism and xenophobia, and radical inequality have made the streets more mean and unforgiving.
Your support of Real Change creates immediate work and opportunity and helps build a bottom-up movement for the change we need.
With your help, more people like Donald will find community and begin the path to stability and recovery that starts with self-love.
Our work in the months and years to come lies in supporting vendor leadership, mobilizing our community, creating spaces for dialogue and bringing people together for change.
Your gift to the Summer Fund Drive will help us:
♦ Reach more people with our hard-hitting community journalism
♦ Upgrade our reader mobilization tools to bring more people into action
♦ Support vendor leaders in making their voices heard with the resources they need.
When you give $100 or more to our Summer Fund Drive, you will receive a thank-you gift of the new Real Change “Resist” T-shirt. Your gift of $250 or more will be matched by a generous donor — up to a total of $30,000 — to leverage your support.
Donald has turned a life of struggle and pain into a gift to others. Your gift to Real Change empowers people like him to succeed, find their voice and give back to their community.
“Real Change is what it means. It changes people’s lives. It’s changed my life. I’m living proof.”
Our inspiring community of readers and supporters makes all the difference. Your gift to the Summer Fund Drive means Real Change will continue growing in the challenging times to come.
Founding Director, Real Change
P.S. Your gift to our Summer Fund Drive helps us reach our goal of involving 100 more vendors in our work. Please become a Real Change financial supporter today!
Read the full May 31 issue.
Vendor Profile: Donald Morehead
Director's Corner: Hiding numbers in plain sight