When Real Change vendor Donald Morehead first came to Seattle 17 years ago, he was broke, homeless, had PTSD from a life of trauma and was self-medicating to get through the day.
Within hours of his arrival by Greyhound, a couple of homeless guys pointed Donald to Real Change. He was selling the paper the next day. On his first day, Donald went from having nothing to $40.
He said to himself, “This will work.”
Real Change met Donald where he was at. During his first year in Seattle, he could live in his tent, snuggled in a cave dug high into a Queen Anne hillside, get his showers at a nearby shelter and earn money to survive by selling our paper.
Over time, the daily contact with customers helped Donald to connect with others. Real Change was the beginning of the road to recovery.
Now Donald is nearly four years sober and runs the Real Change vendor orientation. While Donald’s disability still keeps him from regular work, he now has a way to give back.
Donald says that “God done blessed me so that I’m in the shape I’m in now. I can see out and see where I came from. I don’t look down on people.
“I can see where people come from and where they’re at in life, and they need somebody to give them a little boost. Somebody had to help me, and I’m going to try and help them.”
Real Change offered a path from isolation and despair to finding community and success. It offered him the opportunity, on his own terms, to work and gave him something positive in his life.
But it was Obamacare that ultimately got Donald off the streets.
Shortly after the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Donald was freezing in his RV and desperately sick. When he sought help, he was hospitalized for pneumonia and offered drug and alcohol treatment.
“That sounded real good to me right about then. Obamacare allowed me to go to treatment without having to pay out of my pocket.”
Alcohol treatment led to mental health counseling. “I still had to deal with the issues in my head,” he told me, “because that was constantly making me want to go back to the drinking and smoking weed.”
Obamacare paid for that too.
Donald’s path to recovery took him from treatment to a recovery-based group home. From there, he went into transitional housing and, in 2014, to the permanent housing that he lives in now.
From Donald’s second day in Seattle, Real Change has been there. What was first a survival tactic became a way to find meaning in helping others.
The opportunity and hope that our readers provide through their support of our vendors changes lives. We see this over and over.
Your gift to Real Change, through GiveBig on May 10 is matched dollar for dollar by Wyncote Foundation Northwest.
After GiveBIG, gifts to our spring fund drive of $150 or more will also receive a match, made possible through generous donor support.
In times like this, when the progress of recent years is threatened by racist backlash to Barack Obama’s Presidency, your support of our work means that people like Donald Morehead have a chance.
A chance to survive. To find work that offers dignity and hope. To find community. To begin the path to stability and recovery that begins with self-love.
Don’t you want to be a part of that? Your support of our work helps 700 vendors a year find their own paths to stability.
Donald has turned a life of struggle and pain into a gift to others.
“I know what it takes to get off the streets and get a roof over your head. A lot of guys out there is dealing with mental problems. I was dealing with mental problems. And didn’t know it. I was self-medicating myself. I can show them and tell them how to do it.”
Your support of our work is a gift that keeps on giving. Please GiveBIG on May 10 through the Seattle Foundation or make a gift directly to Real Change.
Vendor Profile: Donald Morehead
Nikkita Oliver: Advocate for change
Nonprofit agency helps fill the gaps in services for Native American women