Sam Berndale worked all kinds of jobs in Seattle and Everett before he became homeless. While between jobs, he started selling Real Change to help make ends meet. And, he says, he needed it.
“I had a thousand dollars a month to pay on rent. My light bill was always in trouble. I gave up my car and then lost my apartment.”
Then, his life took a turn. He moved to the Philippines, where he planned to marry a woman he’d met online. Unfortunately, he says, he “wound up losing her.”
Ultimately, though, it turned out to be fortuitous. He met the woman who would later become his wife, Helen. Last year, they got married. And, Sam says, there’s a lot to like about his life overseas.
“I like the quietness. I enjoy the people. The food is good. And my wife is wonderful,” he explains. And, he adds, the financial element is also compelling.
“I can afford to live in the Philippines. The cost of living fits into my budget,” he says. “[In the United States], I don’t care how many papers you sell, it’s going to be too tough. Nobody owns nothing, rent’s too high, light bill costs too much.”
That’s a stark contrast to his life abroad.
“I got my own house for under 800 dollars. I built it. And my light bill is only 30 dollars a month. My food bill is a hundred dollars a month!”
Still, Sam remains a member of the Real Change family; he returns to Seattle every couple of years to sell papers and work a second job. This would give him more than enough income to live in rural Mindanao, but also to put money into helping the community there.
“People helped me out. I’ve got to turn around and help others out. If you think being homeless in America is bad, go to the Third World. You see kids pumping water and the water is dirty and you can get cleaner water by buying it through a station, or you see people have no paper and pencil but they want to go to school.”
Sam’s Real Change income goes a lot further in the Philippines, which means he’s able to put it to use in his community.
“We’ve got a little garden. We buy a couple of pigs and cows and raise them up. They’re like a hundred dollars for a pig, and maybe 150 dollars for a cow. You start raising them and feeding them, and then you gather people and pick the garden. We roast a pig over the fire or sometimes a cow. I feed people from all over.”
The last time Sam was here, he stayed with another Real Change vendor, Jonas Stone, who died about a year ago. Sam says he was “a great friend.”
Jonas unfortunately passed away before Sam’s last return trip, leaving him without a place to stay. The faith community, though, came through for him.
“Thank God I had a small community church I was going to. They gave me a room till October.”
Finding a place to stay when he comes back to the States is the biggest challenge, Sam says. And while he wants to help as many people as he can, that hurdle remains a difficult one.
“Once I get that place to stay, I can come back, do more work if I need it,” adding that he “can’t risk it when I don’t have a place. I’ve had my share of that, and believe me, the streets are no good for nobody.”
Check out the full Sept. 12 - Sept. 18 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.