Sporting a lime-green jacket, hat, lanyard and mug nearly every day, Zackary Tutwiler has no hesitation in saying he’s a “die-hard Seahawks fan.”
Zackary, 38, moved from San Jose, California, to Seattle in 1978 with his mother and sister while he was still an infant. Seattle is the only city Zackary knows. And he “stands strong for Seattle.”
Though he’s lived in the Emerald City his whole life, Zackary has bounced around quite a bit.
“I’ve done the DOC [Department of Corrections]thing, been there done that, retired my number as of Sept. 28, 2015. I’m no longer dealin’ with them no more, that’s one major accomplishment.”
Zackary is no longer using drugs either and has gone from being homeless and staying in a shelter to landing his own studio apartment over the course of four years.
“I’m out there and I think, what I started [with] is a homeless newspaper and I turned it into a full-time job for me.”
Having been a vendor for two years, Zackary loves Real Change so much that he’s turned down seasonal positions to continue selling at his typical location at Third Avenue and James Street. Selling Real Change has allowed him to pay for his housing, and he defends his source of income with a fierce sense of pride.
“I was to the point to where I have to show my keys to [customers], and let my customers know. When I get a certain amount, I was asked, ‘What do you do with the money?’ I said, ‘Ma’am, I go home with this; I have a house, I have an apartment that I pay $209 for a month. This all goes back to my house.’”
Priding himself on how his life has turned around in the past few years, Zackary credits his polite nature to his mother’s Southern roots, as her family is from Texas. He acknowledges each person in front of him with a “yes, sir,” or “no, ma’am,” and always leaving them with a “have a good day!”
Zackary’s focus on positivity and determination to overcome nearly any obstacle in front of him has been a perpetual theme throughout his life. He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, “but I’ve even overpowered my disability to come back into the community as if my disability doesn’t even matter to me.”
Zackary doesn’t let his disability stop him from volunteering at Downtown Emergency Service Center’s drop-in mental health and substance abuse clinic twice a week or writing poetry and songs. He enjoys reading poetry, and cites his favorite poets as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.
“I love Real Change because it’s a way for me, it gave me a start, not really knowin’ how much power Real Change really holds. And me myself, I didn’t know, for me to operate in the manner that I do, I’ve actually reversed it. My change has been real. That’s it. You guys wonder how I do so good, that’s why.”
He credits this to a life that reversed the name of Real Change.
“My change has been real. I actually reversed it.”