When Joshua Trujillo is selling Real Change, he likes to tell people what it’s about: “Can I interest you with Seattle’s local homeless newspaper, which keeps you informed of what’s going on in your neighborhood, your community at large, with not just the taxpaying citizens but those that are homeless as well?
“I let them know Real Change is not just a newspaper. Real Change is a group of men and women that not only keep you up to date, but we advocate for the less fortunate that aren’t out here doing this for whatever reason, whether it’s mental or physical disability or an addiction that they don’t feel comfortable bringing themselves out here.
“Before [selling Real Change] I wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t have a job. I was just living off SSI, struggling to get by. I was caught up in my addiction with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. Then I got to thinking, there’s got to be something better in life.
“For the first couple weeks [selling Real Change], I didn’t make anything. But the more I kept going back, I have an idea that they were thinking, ‘Wow, this is a person that’s determined to sell these papers. He’s here faithfully every day like clockwork.’” And he started getting regular customers.
Joshua emphasizes that the paper focuses on homelessness because it’s one of the biggest problems we’re dealing with. “The first couple times it doesn’t click, but they start to get interested. I’ve had people come back to me a couple of weeks later and buy a paper for the first time, and then they like the paper so much they’re buying copies for their friends.”
On the other hand, “I’ve been having people come up to me and talk about they’re going to kick my butt.”
He’ll reply, “‘I understand you may be angry or frustrated and may not like what I’m doing, but you have a great day, because I’m not going to fight you.’ More often than not, they’ll look at me surprised and walk off. And a lot of them will come back and be like, ‘You know, I’m sorry. Can I buy a paper from you?’”
Joshua keeps a Chihuahua named Bella with him when he sells.
“I’ll have her zipped up in my coat or sitting in my arms. People come by with their kids. Their kids will want to pet her.” That helps with sales, of course.
Bella was a rescue dog, half-starved and with a dozen bad teeth. Joshua was able to get her treated at a free vet clinic. “Everybody thinks she’s growling at them since they pulled the 12 teeth, but she’s not.”
It’s not surprising that Joshua decided to take her on. “In my family we were always taught, when you see somebody who needs help, don’t just turn and walk away from them.” Of course, that applies to people too. “I’ve always liked helping people. If I can make just one person smile, it makes me feel better.”
Joshua is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles. Wait, there's more. Check out the full Feb. 7 - Feb. 13 issue.