By VW, StreetWise, Chicago
VW says it was “divine intervention” that brought her to StreetWise.
I went to a homeless luncheon in 2010, and there was a StreetWise representative there. I was in a shelter at the time. With the help of Mercy House, I was able to receive housing. Then one day, I found a StreetWise sitting on the EL. I was suffering; I didn’t have any money. My rent was paid by CHA, but I didn’t have things like tissue and dish soap! I noticed in the magazine that the zip code was 60640, which is the same as mine! I walked over to find out where the office was on July 5, 2012 and came to the orientation. I have been aboard ever since! I haven’t missed a single week!
It was a wonderful find, because it ended up being very valuable to me. I was doubtful originally, but the other vendors really encouraged me. I kept going out and just meeting more and more people. Now I have dedicated regulars and I’ve been a vendor for going on three years now.
I have learned about what a great organization it is. Sometimes people have a past, and it makes it really hard to get employed. It is hard to get work and it is hard to get housing. I have appreciated the opportunity that Mercy House and StreetWise have given me.
I’ve been based at the Jewel at Berwyn and Broadway since I started. I am always 15 feet away from the driveway. I get walking customers and a lot of car customers! They just pull up to the curb behind me. I always watch other vendors [to learn effective strategies for selling the magazine]. I like to always have the magazine on hand and to look professional. I keep the magazine in my hand to draw attention to it.
When people ask, I explain that it is a magazine that provides self-employment. A lot of people think that we are raising money for StreetWise: they don’t know that we make our living by purchasing them [for 90 cents] and then coming back out and selling them [for $2]. I make it clear to each person I talk to that I pay for those magazines. It is important that they know, and people really respect that. It is what it is all about: talking and communicating. It builds the relationships with my customers too.
It seems to me that I am always seeing different faces coming through Edgewater. I think festivals bring people up to the neighborhood, and they stop and ask questions about StreetWise.
I grew up in southern Illinois and came to Chicago back in the ’70s when I was just 7 years old. My mom wanted to leave the South, so she followed a relative to Chicago and we have been here ever since. I like that Chicago is a city that people want to see! Tourists want to have StreetWise as a souvenir!
I love music! I love Adele! V103 has been playing her song and I just love her voice. I love Rhythm & Soul. And — oh! — David Bowie! I have been going on to YouTube and listening to him. His most recent release — oh my! — that man’s voice! I also love Bobby Womack, Anthony Hamilton, Johnny Gill, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, and several more. I also like learning and taking notes is something I have always been good at.
I have a back condition so I filed for disability, but I want to keep on with StreetWise. StreetWise and Mercy housing have really opened the door. It has really provided hope for me. I had no source of income. But they didn’t care about my background and gave me an opportunity to make some money. Everyone needs money.
I was never the type to turn to illegal ways, and it was depressing me that I was so poor. It started messing with my head and I was worried I would be in a psych hospital. StreetWise has taken the stress off of me, as I now have an income. It provides self-sufficiency for me. It is my source of hope.
Courtesy of StreetWise / INSP Check out the full May 16 - 22 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.