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Leonard Watts: his contagious positivity

Fri, Dec 23, 2011

StreetWise Vendor Leonard Watts

StreetWise Vendor Leonard Watts has the uncanny ability to brighten the day of anyone he meets. His unyielding, positive attitude is a breath of fresh air and his cheery, charming smile is contagious.

Because of Leonard’s incessant pleasantness, you’d never guess that he has had his fare share of hard times. He came to StreetWise in March after he and his long-time girlfriend and fellow StreetWise vendor, Felicia Atkinson, moved to Chicago to care for Leonard’s sick grandfather.

“When Felicia and I first left Chicago to go to Atlanta, I had a pretty good job. I did floor teching at Heartsfield Jackson Airport and I was making $16 an hour. It was good work. But my grandfather got sick and so we came back to Chicago. When I got here, I never had a problem getting jobs before because I do plumbing, carpentry, electrical and roofing. But when we got here, we had enough money to survive for awhile but it didn’t last long,” Leonard explained.
One day last March, Felicia ran into a StreetWise vendor who told her about orientation. She and Leonard became vendors a mere two weeks later. “After only two weeks, we were able to move into a small apartment and now we have a 3-bedroom and we’re renting to a guy from Safer Foundation. So everything’s going good,” Leonard said.

After being with StreetWise for only about nine months, Leonard has been asked to be a member of the Quality Assurance Team, a group of StreetWise vendors who work to “ensure quality in the areas of sales, security, vendor training, recruitment, vendor image, and community relations.” QAT members have a great deal of responsibility and Leonard feels honored to be chosen and trusted. “I’ve always been an honest guy. And it’s an honor to [be a QAT member] because they trust me enough to know that I’m going to do the right thing and I’m going to do it in a professional manner. I’m not out there to snatch badges. I’m not out there to embarrass anybody. We’re conversating and I can only advise you to do the right thing,” Leonard said.

A large part of his responsibility includes patrolling the streets of the city, looking for men and women who are illegally selling the magazine without a badge. “Some of these guys are out here hustling, but the thing is that they’re taking money out of everybody else’s pocket. The first time I catch them, I give them the opoprtunity to come in and do it the right way and become an official StreetWise vendor,” Leonard said.

Leonard is also working towards the personal goal of obtaining more education. He hopes to take advantage of a program that StreetWise offers that will teach him how to become a lineman, hooking up electrical wires on street poles. This will be a full-time position. Currently, Leonard and Felicia both vend StreetWise and are also employed by RedEye, but they continue to look for more and more opportunities.

When asked what was his motivation, he replied, “My love for my woman is my motivation. I want her to have everything she wants, and the only way to get it is to get out there and get it. That’s what drives me.”

Written by Brittany Langmeyer,
StreetWise Staff


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