Posted by StreetWise in Vendor ProfilesStreetWise vendor Andy Pappas came to StreetWise over a decade ago with his late wife, Bonnie. “When we heard about StreetWise, the office was on Michgan Avenue. We were downtown and saw one of the vendors. My wife asked him how we could apply for a job, and the guy told us how we could attend the orientation,” Andy recalled.
Before he came into his role with StreetWise, Andy traveled a hard road. At a very young age, he moved out of his home in California to get away from his alcoholic stepfather. “Me and him used to get in fights and I said, ‘Mom, I’m packing my bags and I’m leaving.’ I went on the streets and I started getting jobs. I was working as a bus boy, a dishwasher. I would help in the kitchen, mopping, cleaning up, and so I just went out on my own,” Andy said.
Andy eventually moved to Chicago in an effort to start a new life and he met Bonnie, the woman with whom he would spend 18 years of his life. During his time in the Windy City, Andy struggled to find work and would sometimes panhandle to get by. But thanks to the help of StreetWise, he could once again feel like he was earning his living honestly. “I felt like it was good working for this company. I finally had people to help me and I didn’t have to beg people on the street for money anymore. I mean, I wasn’t homeless at the time, but I couldn’t find employment. I just wanted employment,” Andy said.
When Bonnie fell ill and passed away nearly 12 years ago, the people who stuck by him during his hardship were those same people who helped him get up on his feet again. “StreetWise is like my family. They’re very supportive.”
And after so many years without a companion, Andy has found another to share his life with. During his time living in the Continental Nursing home, he made a bond with a woman named Linda. “She came from another nursing home in the suburbs and, if I had never met her, I would have been left alone with my life and she would have been left alone with her life. Now we can share it together,” says Andy.
He and Linda have been together for almost a year now and Andy has an announcement to make: he and Linda will be getting married this coming spring.
And even though things are on the up for Andy right now, he still has worries he must face each day. “I’ve been hearing that President Obama has been trying to stop the Circuit Breaker checks and I get $150 a year from that. I need that because it helps pay my bills, so that’s a big concern of mine right now,” Andy explained.
Plus, Andy’s health has been wavering lately. “Me and Linda wanted to move to a group home, but since I had pneumonia and I went to the hospital for five days, I can’t go to a group home. Because of the pneunomia, I have asthma now and my doctor wants me to stay in a nursing home. But my nursing home gives me good care and they’re my family,” Andy said.
Despite these struggles, Andy is in a good place. He continues to regularly vend at his location at Van Buren and Wells by Starbucks and he has a good relationship with his customers. In his spare time, he enjoys drawing pictures with Linda and he also likes to meet his friend to play pool. When asked how he would describe himself, Andy humbly stated, “I help people out… I’m a good person.”
Written by Brittany Langmeyer