Patrick Lynch doesn’t like to use the term “homeless” to refer to people. He prefers the term “a state of permanent or temporary displacement.”
The only reason he uses the term “homeless” is because people know what it means. As a vendor, Patrick works to open people’s minds and foster understanding across class lines.
“There’s some misconceptions about Real Change, how it operates,” he explains, “The preconceived notions that people have really get in the way. I try to break through those barriers. I try to stress the fact that I’m not trying to elicit sympathy, I’m trying to promote empathy.”
Talking with Lynch, his compassion and clarity of purpose is immediately apparent. He cares about his customers, the other vendors, and the way that the community interacts and works together. And he’s working toward his own goals, too.
“Real Change for me was about freedom. The freedom to be able to pursue my dreams. I didn’t even think I was going to get off the street. It allowed me a vehicle to take care of myself and has profoundly impacted my life.”
Lynch’s passion for life, art and community are the commitments that have stayed with him over the years, even when times were tough. His warm demeanor and open approach to life have helped him make lasting friendships, and develop a strong base of customers at his selling location at Leschi Market.
But it has been a journey to get here.
Lynch has dealt with bullying and a difficult family life. He left school at 15, but that didn’t stop him from working toward his education. At 16, he earned his GED, and took some college classes before life got in the way.
Lynch was living in Arizona, and trying to decide where to move, to make a fresh start. Denver, Portland and Seattle were on the list, all cities that appealed to him. That’s when he saw a YouTube video featuring Neal Lampi, longtime vendor program field organizer at Real Change, talking about empowerment and advocating for people living outside.
At the time, Lynch was struggling. “I thought, would I ever get off the street?” Watching Lampi and others standing up for their right to exist had an impact.
Lynch had been living outside for the better part of a decade, and the movement in Seattle resonated with him and what he wanted to do next. “It’s been about getting the elements of my life in the right place, to be able to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I like the concept of an empowerment project.”
Lynch has worked hard to get where he is: In stable housing, earning a reliable income selling 300 to 600 papers each month, and free to pursue his many varied interests.
One of his passions is nutrition, which he’s been studying since he got to Seattle. He’s been a vegan for about five years, which was a challenge when he relied on meal programs for food.
It all started when he asked himself, “What am I eating exactly?” It was a quick progression from there to a deep interest in nutrition.
Working at Real Change, he was able to make choices about food that mattered to him, and stop going to meal programs. “I can go sell Real Change papers and get enough money to buy twice as much food that’s five times as healthy.”
Freedom to make choices like this made a difference in his quality of life. “If you want to talk about upward mobility, Real Change is instrumental,” Lynch said.
He is also an artist, “I used to draw more, but my interest has moved to writing.” He’s excited about two articles he’s working on for Real Change. And he’s pursuing work as a live model for artists, something his aunt, an artist, encouraged him to explore. Now, he uses his time selling the paper to practice standing still in different poses. “I think I can get good enough to do the more difficult poses.”
Regardless of his art or studies, he will always participate in some form of advocacy.
For Lynch, “selling Real Change is advocacy because I get to communicate with all different kinds of people, and people actually listen to me and are receptive to my words, the things I say about my experience.”
Patrick is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles. Read the full June 19 - 25 issue.
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