Shawn Wilson is one of those people who you can’t help but smile around. Wilson oozes a charisma that is contagious. Even battling through pain, Wilson never lets it show while selling at Crown Hill Safeway. “With what our city is going through with our homeless crisis, it is way more important for me to be selling and bringing awareness to this population — instead of me focusing on my pay,” Wilson said.
Wilson made his way to Seattle by “making choices he hadn’t planned for,” he said. But what has made Seattle and Real Change feel like home for Wilson is the love and support he has received from the community and concern they have expressed about his well being. “I didn’t know that my customers were a part of Real Change at the beginning but now I do. Just this past Thanksgiving, I wasn’t feeling well so I wasn’t able to visit other friends. So I called another customer [friend] and told them I was under the weather. They told me to ‘Come right on over and have Thanksgiving dinner with us,” Wilson said. “They didn’t blink an eye. And by the way it was the best Thanksgiving dinner ever and his wife is an awesome cook,” Wilson added.
Some of these friendships run deep. “There is a wonderful couple that went to Ireland last summer and sent me some amazing photos,” Wilson said. “It’s just amazing how much people can help you and you can see yourself in a better way and it can be completely unexpected. They are some of the kindest people I have met,” Wilson said. Wilson was first introduced to Real Change when he saw vendors selling it on the street. Wilson had been volunteering with other Seattle organizations, including food banks, but needed something more. “I volunteered at these places but I didn’t understand their big picture. Here at Real Change, I have experienced homelessness for many years, which is what Real Change is trying to combat and give people a voice who wouldn’t normally have one,” Wilson said.
Since 2011, Wilson has been able to find housing. Being inside has helped Wilson in other aspects of his life. Wilson gets to cook for himself, figure out his medication and work on being responsible. Wilson passed up four different types of housing to stay on the street because he was offered more dependable housing. He knew that other people needed that assistance more than he did and so he stayed on the street. His housing now also gives him the time and rest he needs to avoid fatigue and stay active.
Asked if he had any advice for new vendors he said, “You can turn your life around and you can change how you feel about people who have shunned you. You want to make sure you have one thing big or small in your life each day to look forward to.”
For Wilson, Real Change has been an invaluable resource. “For people who are thinking about joining Real Change, know that you can help yourself or others, you can put light on things you don’t understand, you can have fun and you get to meet people,” Wilson said, smiling widely. “On behalf of everyone here at Real Change and I, we would like to thank you for my growth as a person and a vendor and for your wholehearted support.”
Shawn Wilson is celebrating two years as a Real Change vendor
Vendor Week: Learning the art of the deal
Vendor Week: Smile, wave, make eye contact
Read the full Feb. 13 - 19 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.