When Vernon Cormier’s voice fills the room, those who stop what they’re doing to listen are gifted some combination of flattery and laughter.
Vernon describes himself as “a humorist and a loyalist.” A vendor for nearly five years, he explains that it was nothing other than “real change” that led him to Real Change.
“My wife passed away two years ago of cancer and that put me in a homeless situation. With both of us, we could afford the utilities and the rent, but alone you’re either going to pay one thing or another and obviously it couldn’t be the rent. So I’m trying to recover from that and now I’m just trying to be open-minded and meet as many beautiful people as I can meet.”
Real Change was an obvious channel.
Vernon is a natural salesman. He’s worked in communications since graduating high school.
From selling light bulbs that were never supposed to go out, “and they did eventually go out, of course,” to telemarketing and campaigning for organizations such as the American Heart Association, Vernon has done it all. But each job, as jobs do, “ran its course, and now I’m at a turning point in my life.”
Unruffled, Vernon reassured himself and his audience that he’s come to terms with where he is in this God-given moment.
“I like people. I’m an extrovert. I enjoy people. People are what makes the world go round. It helps you network. You might meet Jesus, who knows?” says Vernon on selling Real Change.
Vernon sells the paper for a sense of efficacy and, of course, because he’s a people person. His vocation lies, however, in creating rather than selling content.
“I’m a writer. I write children’s stories. I wrote one called ‘The Traveling Hubcaps.’ Just to name one.”
The story of two hubcaps, cut from the same cloth, tragically separated at installation.
You’ll have to buy a paper from Vernon and stick around to ask how the story ends.
“Cute story though. It is so cute. There’s a man in the story with a pointed head and he says everything twice and he moves around real fast and he works in a bakery. Oh no, that’s ‘The Chocolate Soul Cookies.’ That’s another story. I trip off people that are odd.”
Vernon’s imagination is active constantly.
“I wrote two movies. I got a movie, when the crack epidemic came out, called ‘Crack Baby.’ It’s about a 12-year-old kid that controlled 10,000 guys and they’d never seen his face, all they’d seen was white gloves and a limousine.”
He plans to pursue a career in television after gaining a stronger sense of stability.
“The homeless situation. That’s got me.” Vernon, who is, outwardly, one of Real Change’s most charismatic vendors, is also well-versed in local politics and Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The perfect example of the city’s inability to prioritize funding for low-income housing, Vernon notes, is the recent proposal to spend $180 million in public funding on upgrades to Safeco Field.
“That’s disgusting. To me ... But there’s a lot of that goin’ on everywhere, on different levels.”
The city dances around getting people housed. Programs such as rapid rehousing, that utilize vouchers to reduce the cost of housing, are “a trap, if you’re used to not having nothing. No responsibilities.”
People underestimate just how difficult the transition from being without a home to having a place of your own can be and often is.
But suffering, Vernon admits, is all relative.
“We’re all victimized by the system. Even Bill Gates. Everybody’s going through everything. Money’s not always the answer. Matter of fact, most of the time it’s not.”
Mental illness, trauma and harmful generalizations do not discriminate. Vernon has grown weary of the racism he encounters in everyday interactions; he’s ready for the next chapter, but he has his own way of coping.
“I just love everybody regardless of what’s going on. That works for me. Can’t run around here hatin’ everybody.”
Despite adversity Vernon has endured; much of his energy is lent to those around him.
In need of a pre-interview pep talk, someone to notice and compliment those sneakers you just snagged from the depths of the sale rack, or even just a conversation imbued with optimism and good-humor?
“I should be somewhere within your perimeters.
“Look for me. I’m the Real Change guy.”
Vernon is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Check out the full July 18 - July 24 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.