Darrell Wrenn has seen homelessness from both sides. For years before he was homeless, he worked in the criminal justice field — in juvenile detention in Connecticut and as “a patrol officer in Sacramento for four years before our budget got cut.
It was dangerous at times, but I loved making a difference in the community.”
“I’ve always had empathy for the homeless. Now I have even more empathy,” including for people with mental health issues. As for his situation, “My issue is just economics.”
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Darrell didn’t set out to be a police officer. “Birmingham had its racism. A lot of stuff I never experienced because Birmingham was majority Black. I went to a predominantly White elementary school. My mom taught out in the suburbs, so I went out there.” He learned to move in both the White and Black worlds.
Wrenn went to college at Northwest Missouri State University where he majored in mass communications with a minor in broadcast journalism.
For almost two years he had his own pop and jazz shows at the college radio station.
“At that time the No. 1 song was Eric Clapton, ‘Tears in Heaven,’ about [how]his son had died, and then the ‘Boomerang’ soundtrack, Eddie Murphy. Those songs bring back memories.”
He notes that to make it in radio today “you’ve got to create a core base.” He applies the same rule to his work with Real Change: talking with his customers and showing them that he’s committed to being there. If he’s gone a few days, “My regulars who respect the paper out in Issaquah are going to be asking me, ‘OK, where you been?’”
“I tell them, the first step into ending homelessness is to house the people. Then go to the mental health and people who need substance abuse treatment.”
He talks to his customers about homelessness. “I tell them, the first step into ending homelessness is to house the people. Then go to the mental health and people who need substance abuse treatment.”
“Mayor [Jenny] Durkan seems to be down for helping the homeless, for getting it done quick. We’ll see what happens. Mayor Durkan should come down to Real Change, not just for a day or two, but make Real Change a part of her daily interaction. She needs to have maybe one or two vendors on her regular board, people that can hold her accountable.
“Seattle’s that emerald jewel. If they don’t take care of this, not just open up more shelters — shelters are fine — [but] house people, Seattle no longer will be the Emerald City. You’re going to have the walking dead walking around.”
Wrenn is looking to get back into law enforcement. Coincidentally, Scott Behrbaum, the chief of Issaquah Police, is a regular customer. “He always comes over and talks to me,” praising Darrell’s commitment to his work.
Darrell wants to give a shout-out to the Issaquah Police Department and the [King County] Sheriff’s Department for their support.
“Also the PCC staff.” Chief Behrbaum has encouraged Darrell to apply to the department.
He also has some contacts with the Department of Corrections. “That’s my plan, but in the meantime I plan to sell Real Change papers.”
Darrell is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full March 14 - 20 issue.