Sabina Lopez is celebrating having a place to live after three years without a home. “It’s been so long since I just lay in an actual real bed to sleep.” She’s in a house that’s one “big old room” with a bathroom. It’s in the back of a larger house where she shares the kitchen.
She credits the money earned from selling Real Change for giving her enough to pay the rent. “I’m never broke. As long as you have papers, you always have money.”
For 17 years, Sabina lived in a place she called her own. “Even though I rented, it was like it was mine.” After that, she lived at Nickelsville and the tent cities. More recently she was sleeping outside a building in Lake City. “Lake City’s the safest place if you have to sleep anywhere. All the people watch over each other.”
Sabina sells next to the Bartell in Lake City, so she still sees all her friends in the neighborhood. She also has her customers. “I like all of them, but maybe ten of them are really cool.” One couple regularly brings her a cup of coffee. When she hurt her foot and was in a wheelchair, people were really concerned.
Unfortunately, the new manager at Bartell didn’t want a Real Change vendor in front of the store. Sabina thinks a previous vendor might have been too aggressive. “I’m not aggressive,” she says, “just friendly.” This manager forced her to the edge of the parking lot, where there were no walk-by customers.
“I couldn’t sell any papers there. My customers were telling him off and writing letters.” With help from Real Change staff, Sabina wrote a letter, too. Finally, somebody at another business told her Bartell didn’t own the little mall it was in, just the space in front of the store. Now she sells right next door on the other side of the property line.
Sabina has lived in the Seattle area since childhood. Her mother still lives in the area. Sabina stayed with her during a period when she couldn’t walk at all. But she prefers not to stay with her mom because they don’t get along.
One of her talents is cooking. “I was the one cooking in Lake City for all the homeless people. I just tried to make sure everybody eats.”
One day she made Indian tacos with lots of fry bread just to have something different. She has also cooked breakfasts for people at God’s Little Acre, a day shelter in Lake City.
Now that she has a place, Sabina plans to go back to school and get her ged. “Not very exciting, but I have to do it,” she says. Her other ambition is to sell more Real Change papers.
“I love this job. Whenever I’m feeling sad, I know I’ll be happy once I get to work. I’ll see all the little kids and say, ‘Hey, how are you?’ The little kids all know me. I like that.”