I’ve been living in Seattle since Jan. 2. Three weeks after I arrived here, I received employment at the Lighthouse for the Blind. A month later, I fell at a bus stop and injured myself, which put me out of work for over two months.
During that time, I heard about a program concerning low-income orca bus passes and was told I could learn more at the Real Change office. While I was there, I learned about an orientation for selling the Real Change newspapers. Because Lighthouse had to fill the job while I was recovering, I was looking for work. I thought, “newspapers? I could do that.”
I went to the orientation and was offered coffee and tea. There, I felt welcomed and warm and I was happy to learn about the history of Real Change and how it benefits the community. I received my vest and my badge and it really felt like having my own business. One of the employees at Real Change even took me to my first selling position — I am the only legally blind vendor — and told me that if I had any questions, I could just give him a call.
Selling Real Change has been a wonderful experience. The customers are kind and caring and interested in the paper and they’re glad to help.
I’ve really enjoyed my stay here in Seattle. I love the many services it provides for the community — for the homeless, for poor people — like food banks and hygiene stations and places for seniors. It’s just so supportive and there are so many ways to be involved. At every shelter I’ve been to, I have volunteered.
Since arriving here, so many people have helped me. They’ve walked me from Point A to Point B. And I’ve also tried to give back; I love to help people. It’s just in my nature.
I’m a member of the Recovery Cafe and I’m a Salvation Army Soldier. I’m ordained to preach and came to Seattle ready to serve the Lord, and I have done that. I have helped a lot of people here, through ministry but also through distribution of food and clothing and through direction of services. I even fed my “chickens” — which are really pigeons because we’re in the city — while I was staying at one shelter.
It’s been very rewarding to find this community here.
Like my family, I have moved around a lot. My grandmother and grandfather were sharecroppers from Mississippi. They worked hard, picking cotton and doing other work — whatever they could find. I was born in 1962 — the year of the tiger. One year later, they migrated to Louisiana, in 1963, to a sugar cane plantation. Since then, I’ve lived all over. Las Vegas, Florida and now Seattle.
This week, I’m leaving to go to Anchorage. Though I have loved Seattle, it’s simply too difficult to find a place to live that I can afford. I’ve been staying at a shelter for months and am looking forward to having my own apartment in Alaska. I’m a vegan and I miss cooking! When I cook them greens, you know people will be smelling it!
The first month, I’ll be taking a sabbatical to sleep in my own bed, to write and to cook. I’ll apply for jobs and join the Salvation Army Soldiers there and continue working amongst the homeless.
I’m going to miss Real Change and I’m going to miss my customers. God willing, I’ll be back some day.
Thank you, Seattle, and thank you Real Change. You’ve been my family and I hope to see you again. n
Hazel Bell is a Real Change vendor who hopes to return some day.
Check out the full Oct. 24 - 30 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.