Donald “Don” Morehead sells papers the old-fashioned way, by making up chants and building relationships with customers. “It’s hot off the press. Let it cool down five to 10 minutes before you read it,” is one he’s said for a while at his usual location. Don sells in front of Ballard Market most days and in the Georgetown neighborhood once or twice a week, where he uses a longer, poetic chant:
“It’s Real Change, not chump change. It’ll change your mind. It’ll change your story. It’ll even give you glory. Read the story. Real Change!”
Homeless, living in his car and looking for warmer weather, Don traveled from Illinois to Seattle by bus in 2001. He heard about Real Change shortly thereafter from folks he met when he arrived. They also showed him where to go for shelter.
He’s sold papers since, almost 13 years, and much of that time in Ballard. It’s been long enough that he has seen whole families develop, he says. With a smile he talks about seeing a customer through her marriage, pregnancies and then meeting the kids and watching them growing up.
The neighborhood has changed a lot, he says. It’s busier, with lots of new buildings.
Don says he’s known as a “funny type,” and he likes to make his customers laugh. He also likes watching stand-up comedy shows.
He makes me laugh with his impression of Adam Sandler and Dave Chappelle.
All joking aside, he takes his work seriously and has found it helps him a lot. Selling papers works well for him: He can be his own boss, deciding his own hours.
As a child, Don grew up and lived in a rough neighborhood in Illinois, frequently witnessing extreme violence, including shootings. As an adult he enjoyed working in construction for a number of years as an operator and laborer before suffering an injury from a car accident.
He’s tried to return to that type of work several times, but was unable to get the medical treatment he needed. Now, with the Affordable Care Act, which he calls “Obamacare,” he has insurance and is trying to address his health care needs, like a new diagnosis of PTSD.
Don was featured in a Real Change profile several years ago, and by serendipity a cousin of his living in Olympia saw the article and contacted him, leading to a reunion of sorts. Otherwise his family is in Minnesota and Illinois, and he counts Pioneer Human Services as a good friend that has helped him out. He also thanks his customers for their support.