Our Vendors 

Wayne Smith: Getting back on track

Wed, Dec 28, 2011

Wayne Smith

When StreetWise vendor Wayne Smith rises at the crack of dawn each morning, he reflects on the serenity prayer before heading to Dempster and Chicago Avenue in Evanston to meet his morning customers. “I’m religious to an extent. I believe in God and I believe that there’s a power greater than myself.”

After reciting his daily prayer, Smith can be found selling the magazine until 9 a.m. when he then departs to a second job. “I work for District 65. I am a cafeteria supervisor. I like kids; I have a good time with them.”

Smith admits that he too is a kid at heart. “Believe it or not, I’m 57 years old. They say when you become a man, put away your childish things, but I can’t do it. Because I love video games, I like cartoons, I like going to the movies and sci-fi and stuff like that. “

Occasionally, Smith has a chance to let his inner-child out when playing with his 5-year-old granddaughter, Shayla. “She’s the apple of my eye, but I don’t see her as often as I would like.” Smith hopes to continue a relationship with his granddaughter and recalls cherished memories of watching Disney movies with baby Shayla on the weekends.

After facing unemployment 10 years ago, Smith’s friend told him about opportunities with StreetWise. “I came down and I was a little hesitant at first but Greg [Pritchett, Director of Distribution and Vendor Services], was really a good speaker and it just seemed to motivate me. And I have to say I was a little skeptic because my first few weeks out there were kind of slim, but I held onto it. I had a hard time starting out and trying to get the courage up to find what words to say to people.”

He eventually became a seasoned vendor and worked for the magazine for one year and half. Over that time Smith gradually earned enough money to help him back on his feet and into the driving business, transporting people from downtown hotels to the airport. “Driving is my forte, it is what I love.”

Smith’s passion turned into a career when he jumpstarted his own limousine service called Wayne’s Town Car Service for three years. His business was going smoothly until he was caught by surprise when the State of Illinois demanded that he pay delinquent child support for his daughter, Alissa. He hadn’t realized his delinquency, namely because he had been unemployed at various periods and assumed that, due to his unemployment, he would receive time to catch up. This was not the case.

Currently, Smith is back with StreetWise trying to save up the money to pay off his child support so he can restart his business. He is currently living at Hilda’s Place, a shelter in Evanston. His future ambitions include eventually moving into his own place, somewhere safe for his granddaughter to visit. “I’m just trying for baby steps and to get back on my feet.”

“Just because I’m selling StreetWise doesn’t mean I’m homeless. Yes, I live in a shelter, but I still have a place to live. I’m not on the street. I do have a job.” Smith feels grateful for the opportunity StreetWise has given him to stay off the streets and continue working towards his goals. “StreetWise is a great organization. I’m thankful that I have a means for actually making money instead of begging for money.” Smith hopes to use StreetWise’s job service programs to help him continue to get back on his feet.

Written by Brittany Langmeyer,
StreetWise Staff

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