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Dawn Konieczny: Refusing to let disability get her down

Wed, Aug 17, 2011

Dawn Konieczny

Dawn Konieczny is not only one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, she’s also one of the most caring and compassionate. When her father got sick with dementia and Alzheimer’s, Dawn took on the responsibility as his caregiver.

And while she works to care for her father, Dawn has her own medical conditions to worry about. “I have fibromyalgia and arthritis really bad. Because there is a family history of Parkinson’s, they think I’m getting it, so I’m on trial medicines for that right now, so that’s why sometimes my legs shake,” Dawn said.

Dawn must use a walker to get around, because her legs often get tired and it becomes difficult to stand. Yet even with her disabilities, which can cause her a great deal of pain on some days, she is dedicated to selling StreetWise so that she can afford to live and stay off the streets. “StreetWise helps me with my medicine. I take Pace ADA Paratransit, the little vans that come for people with disabilities, and it’s $3 a ride. And [it also helps with] food and toiletries,” she said.

“Even though there are negative [stereotypes] about people being not so generous, I think we’ve found that it’s different. They’ve been supportive of us out there and it’s good. People have bought me coffee or breakfast and, when I’m having a down day, they bring my spirits up, so it’s been a rewarding experience. I’ve met some wonderful people,” Dawn said.

And even on the days where she is feeling very ill because of her conditions, she explains that StreetWise inspires her to keep pushing herself. “What I like about selling StreetWise is that being around people helps. There are days where I just can’t come out. But I think of the people I talk to and the people who smile and say ‘have a good day,’ and it just keeps me wanting to come out,” Dawn said.

Dawn also really likes to have fun with her job. “I try to be very friendly when I’m vending. I lost it, but I used to have my little iPod and I’d sing and people would just laugh. And for Christmas, I had a Santa hat on and for St. Patrick’s Day, I had a St. Patrick’s hat on. So I try to show that I’m spirited and I try to always make sure that I say ‘thank you’ and show that I’m appreciative,” Dawn said.

Right now, Dawn is working on finding more permanent housing. Since her father moved out to be cared for at a Veteran’s Administration hospital, she wasn’t able to afford her rising rent costs and has been staying at the same low-rent hotel as other StreetWise vendors.

In her spare time, Dawn enjoys working to expand her computer skills and reading about current events and history at the library. She also enjoys taking her 20-year-old son, Joseph, to the movies. “I like to read books or watch old movies, like Casablanca and The Sound of Music. And I like all kinds of music, from opera to rock & roll to Elvis to Michael Jackson. One of my favorite artists is Bruce Springsteen and there’s a song called ‘Human Touch,’ and I think that’s what people really want… just to be treated as humans, no matter what social demographic,” Dawn said.

Written by Brittany Langmeyer
StreetWise Staff

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