Steve Gunn wasn’t raised to be homeless. “I come from a Christian family. My grandparents, my mom, my aunts all had jobs, homes. Down in Alabama, Georgia, my folks had money. They would work every day.
“My dad was an ironworker. My mom used to work for this White lady. She used to clean the woman’s house.
“I caught the bus up here from Georgia. I just wanted to better my life. I had two brothers here and they wouldn’t let me live with them.”
Steve lived on the streets of downtown Seattle for about 12 years. “I used to walk up to people and beg for money. I wasn’t raised to be walking up to a grown man like you asking for money.
“I used to be on drugs. I went through treatment. A lot of people don’t know if you get off, they send you to Pioneer Center North, up to Sedro-Woolley. You come back, they put you in housing, but you got to stay clean.”
Now that he has a place, Steve can spend his free time watching sports and attending the Community Bible Fellowship in Skyway. He has Super Bowl parties.
This year, he also tried to have a big dinner to celebrate his birthday, but it snowed that weekend and only two people showed up, so he’ll stick with Super Bowl parties from now on.
Even when he was on the streets, Steve was working — sometimes day labor, sometimes dishwashing, once on a fishing boat.
The late, great vendor Sharon Jones convinced Steve to try selling Real Change, and so he started over five years ago. He’s posted up at Sixth Avenue and Union Street in front of the Washington Athletic Club (WAC) for years now.
He’s made a lot of friends.
One member takes him to a Seahawks game every year. A WAC employee bought him a plane ticket to go back south to see his family. “One customer, she’s trying to find me a recliner chair to sit in when I watch football!”
Because of his years being homeless, Steve finds it hard to watch people on the streets. “I see guys digging in the garbage can. I get mad. I tell them ‘get out of the garbage can.’ I almost got in a fight with a guy about that. He was a White dude and I say, ‘Hey, man, stop, please stop.’
“The dude said, ‘Before I sell Real Change newspaper, I’d eat out of the garbage can.’ Some words were exchanged.
“I had to go talk to my case manager. He said, ‘Steve, let the man eat out of the garbage can, long as you ain’t eating out of the garbage can.’
“The next day I see the guy, I walk up to him. I say, ‘Hey, man, I’m sorry we got to arguing.’ I reached in my pocket to give him $10.
“He says, ‘I don’t want your money, Steve. Let me do what I do and you do what you do. You sell your papers.’”
Steve Gunn is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Read the full Nov. 27 - Dec. 3, 2019, issue.
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