Richard Gambino sees himself as a champion for the homeless. “The homeless population, to some of us, we are family. We form [the] type of bond that if something happens to you, it happens to me.”
Richard began fighting for the rights of those experiencing homelessness as he was traveling through Indianapolis on his way to Seattle. After a difficult encounter with police officers at the airport, Richard stayed in Indiana to present his experience to the ACLU. This was when Richard found his “true calling.”
Richard is currently homeless, and chooses to be. “The only way that I look at it, in order to understand what these guys go through on a daily basis is to be out there on the front line, living. And if people ain’t ready to live it, what’s the use?” Richard believes it’s important for people living outside to be and feel heard “through organizations or even publicized through newspapers.”
Originally from Sicily and raised in Boston, Richard has lived in Seattle since the late ’90s. He’s been living outside for the majority of the last 19 years. In 2015, Richard met Real Change. “I kept wondering: There’s got to be a way for me to make money other than flying a sign.”
Richard believes that since becoming a Real Change vendor, he’s had a certain “glow” about him.
Richard appreciates the community’s support of both the paper and those who sell it. He also recognizes the value Real Change returns to the broader community. By supporting the paper and its vendors, customers can learn about what’s happening in homeless communities and our vendors through the profiles such as this one.
For someone who displays such a positive nature and carefree spirit, when it comes to helping the homeless, Richard means business.
“I’ve been swept. I’ve had everything done to me,” said Richard. “You can’t give up, even in hardship like this.”
Richard was recently elected to be a vendor representative. Real Change vendor representatives ensure due process following staff decision-making, assist staff with the weekly paper delivery and hold seats on the Real Change Vendor Advisory Board. Richard has also worked with Real Change’s advocacy department, and recently spoke at a public hearing in an attempt to ensure that the redevelopment plans for the Fort Lawton Army Preserve include space for low-income housing and housing for those experiencing homelessness. He also took part in the King County annual count of people experiencing homelessness in January.
There’s a lot of homeless people that’s got knowledge, but people don’t want to talk to them because they’re homeless. The [stigma] of being homeless is trumping the fact that they’re smart.”
Richard believes that those experiencing homelessness in many cases could be self-sufficient if they were given the chance. He’d like to see more progressive, self-managed housing projects, run by those who are low-income or homeless, here in Seattle. “There’s a lot of homeless people that’s got knowledge, but people don’t want to talk to them because they’re homeless. The [stigma] of being homeless is trumping the fact that they’re smart.”
Regardless of what life throws at him, Richard always seems to make his own sunshine in an otherwise often gray Seattle. He espouses the adage that you attract more bees with honey rather than vinegar and believes in karma. “It’s an easy choice. Do you want to go through life always feeling negative? Not me. I try to do the best thing I can for people.”
Richard’s go-to selling spots are the Ferry Terminal near First and Marion, and the Starbucks at 12th and Columbia. If you ever see Richard selling papers, most likely in his Real Change visibility vest, feel free to stop and chat.
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