Ron Woolms knows how to look on the bright side. Since 2012, Woolms has suffered from a debilitating trucking injury, both of his parents passed within six weeks of each other, he lost his career and shortly after he lost his housing. Yet when asked what message Woolms would like to share, with an easy smile, he replies, “Always be positive.”
Woolms was born in Southern California, yet he considers himself a Seattlite. He and his family left Chula Vista, southeast of San Diego, when he was just 8 years old. Woolms recalls his elementary school being mere yards away from the United States/Mexico border. When his father got a job with Boeing, they packed up and moved to Seattle. Woolms and his family lived a comfortable, upper-middle-class life in Alderwood Manor, near Lynnwood.
After Woolms graduated from high school and did a little college, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his biological father and join the Navy. He served for 5 years. Woolms was an aviation electrician stationed in Hawaii, and all was going well, until one day when it wasn’t. “I came home one day and my division officer was having sex with my wife,” Woolms explains, “I flipped a gasket. I tried to kill him and I got kicked out for it.”
Woolms was discharged, and he returned to Seattle.
Woolms did not let that philanderous setback stop him. Woolms got a job with Northwest Community Real Estate Investments, and worked his way up to a senior lead position. He had a nice apartment and was living comfortably, until he was rear-ended in a trucking accident. The vertebrae in his neck was damaged, and Woolms opted not to go into surgery. “They said they couldn’t guarantee the outcome,” Woolms said. Now the damaged area is degrading and causing Woolms a lot of pain.
Around the time of the accident, Woolms’ mom was diagnosed with dementia and pancreatic cancer. His father, who had also been ill for a long time, passed away in August 2015. Woolms’ mother passed in September. The culmination of all of these blows, combined with an inability to work since the accident, led Woolms to drug use. That would end with his girlfriend and son leaving. “I just gave up,” Woolms says. By 2016, he was facing homelessness.
Woolms still maintains a relationship with his son, but it is not as it used to be, “We used to do everything together. Part of me wants to see him every day, but I don’t want him to see me like this, so I keep it at a distance until I can get better.”
Woolms spent some time living in his Subaru until the tires were popped and it could no longer be moved; that’s when it got impounded. Woolms also spent some time in Seattle’s shelters, but that didn’t work. “They’re filthy, and there are thieves,” he recalls. Eventually, some friends of Woolms’ set him up with a van in Lynnwood, under the condition that he stay in Lynnwood. The only problem with that is that he could not access the services that he needed to get back on his feet. “I bailed and came back down to Seattle,” says Woolms, “Because there are services down here, like Real Change!”
Woolms has been selling Real Change newspapers for about a year, and he definitely enjoys it. “I love talking to people, and there are plenty of warm-hearted, good, caring people out here,” he explains. He isn’t in it only for himself though, “I feel like I’m helping the homeless too, by spreading the news.” Woolms sells Real Change all over the Seattle area, but on most days you can find him in Capitol Hill, either up on 15th and Republican or over by City Market. “I’ve developed a clientele in the Cap-Hill area,” he states. Woolms doesn’t like to come across as pushy, so he is usually reading his book while he sells. “I’m not really hollering at people,” he says, “I’ll greet them, but I won’t force it, and people will come running across the street just to get Real Change.”
Woolms goes into some of the beneficial impacts of a newspaper like Real Change, “Buying Real Change gives a different perspective on homelessness. People have this preconceived idea of drug use and mental illness, and while that may be some of it, it is also because of the rising cost of living up here.” Woolms is motivated to do what he can to help others struggling with homelessness in Seattle. The way he chooses to do that is to try and get the people who he runs into to become Real Change vendors. “People don’t want to take the time because they’re in their own trials and tribulations, but I keep pushing,” Woolms says, “I’ll get a couple people down here. You just gotta keep your head up.”
Ron is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Read the full Dec. 12 - Dec. 18 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.