In August, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard was on the cover of Real Change.
I like to listen to my customers and ask them for their thoughts and insights — and this cover and story really seemed to wake up a lot of them.
One woman in her mid-50s told me on the night of the first show that she wished the band had held a lottery for tickets to allow 30 or so homeless people into the show.
In fact, she thought maybe the band could hold one for the next show. I listened to her; she had that positive energy that seems to move mountains.
Then, after much thought, I told her that I thought that, instead of concert tickets, that folks outside in Seattle would rather have something critical, like underwear. I told her that they’re in survival mode.
Her hand clenched and went right to her heart.
“Oh,” she gasped. “I didn’t know!”
I responded that that’s why I like Real Change. The stories aren’t too right — they’re just trying to get the word out to end poverty and homelessness and to make readers more aware of the circumstances a homeless person might encounter.
We exchanged goodbyes and I went on selling the paper. Later, I told another woman, this time in her 60s, about the conversation I’d had before and the “underwear remedy.” She asked what she could do.
“Well, any time you see a glut of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, send the supply in the direction of the shelters,” I told her.
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The next day, I ran into one of the women who works in the nonprofit across the street from my post.
I told her about the lottery concert tickets, the underwear, survival mode, and the woman with her heartfelt, clenched fist. My friend from the nonprofit had her jaw open. She pointed to the nonprofit.
“We make survival packets!” she explained. “We could put underwear in them!”
After these conversations, I felt a little bit better. Homeless folks are trying to get by. They are searching for a good night’s sleep and, yes, a fresh pair of underwear each morning — but it’s not something you hear much about until you start having these conversations.
Susan McRoy is a Real Change vendor and contributing writer.
Check out the full Oct. 17 - 23 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. http://main.realchangenews.org/