David Dunn is calm, quiet and funny.
He is reserved, but when asked to describe himself, he says, “I’m funny!” and has jokes ready. He’ll perhaps start with a joke about fishing and then tell a more controversial joke. Just ask.
His soft-spoken demeanor draws people in. He started working with Real Change in 2008. Soon after, a man who was frequently buying the newspaper from David hired him based on a conversation in which David revealed his carpentry skills.
David and this man remodeled and maintained six rental houses together, during which time David befriended the man’s young son, who didn’t take to most anyone. But he took to David.
The boy was around 7 years old when David met him and he displayed as neurodivergent and mostly nonverbal. The boy’s family asked David if he could help give child care, and David said yes. “I do everything but change diapers!” he said.
Initially, the boy just smiled more around David. Then he found ways to communicate with David, gaining options for expressing himself and, eventually, talking with David.
From construction to child care, David worked with the family for around seven years, until the man who hired him died. The boy is now a young man and always thrilled when he sees David. He smiles wide, giggles and howls.
David is back with Real Change and has many friends at the vendor resource center.
David was raised in a big family. They moved to Seattle from Spokane early in David’s life for his father’s architecture job.
David disliked school and left high school early to start working.
“I was a bully. Of all my schools I went to, my main class was in the principal’s office,” David said. “I was bigger than everybody. I had older brothers — but I can’t blame that on them. They actually taught me how to work.
“I did a lot of construction work,” he said. “A lot of remodeling. I learned all my stuff from watching other people.”
He helped build a house for a painter on the San Juan Islands and helped carry all the building materials from delivery barges up to the house. “You couldn’t drive up to it,” he said.
David knows how to do carpentry, electrical and plumbing. He even plumbed a shower for the San Juan site during the yearlong construction, building piping and a wood frame to plumb up from the river.
He also worked in landscaping and was “promoted all the way up” in one company, which closed due to the owner’s drug dealings. “It was a good thing,” David said.
David also worked as a bartender and struggled with sobriety. “I sure have sobered up now,” he said.
Having been raised in Seattle, he knows it well. He has sold Real Change at various spots and now stations in front of Uptown Espresso at Fourth Avenue and Wall Street and in West Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood.
“I show up at 6:30 in the morning, except Wednesdays when the paper comes out at 8:30. Then I’m there with it at 9:30.”
Last year, David was diagnosed with a heart murmur. “I don’t know a lot from the doctors, so I just try to smile about it.”
Medical insurance has been only inconsistently helpful, sometimes denying David even the pills he needs for his heart.
David is an optimist. He helps build a support system for himself and others at Real Change and tries to cheer up those around him.
“The best medicine in the world is humor,” David said. “Otherwise, I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
David Dunn is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Read the full Dec. 4 - 10 issue.
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