StreetWise Vendor Eric Colbert would like to write a book that “inspires, that encourages people.” One for people who suffer from depression. “And homelessness. And darkness,” Eric said. “I would relate with them in this book, and I would encourage and inspire them to keep moving forward.”
In the meantime, Eric’s happy to be a proud tenant of the new apartment he secured with the help of StreetWise and the Heartline Alliance.
“It’s got a bathroom. Kitchen. Dinner Table. Chairs. Bedroom-set. Dresser. Drawers… It’s awesome,” Eric said. “It makes me feel like I can do better and go forward. Now I can feel more stable. More independent. I don’t have to ride the L no more and watch my back at night time. I can sleep in a bed now behind shelter. Behind a closed door.”
Eric is highly pleased with the help that Heartland gave him, even buying a few startup dishes for his kitchen, and he says he would recommend the organization to anyone. He pays his rent according to his income and Heartline is there to back him up if needed.
Yet as a vendor, Eric doesn’t shy away from the struggles he’s had making ends meet. “When I first started in Evanston I was out there for a good eight to nine hours,” Eric said. “Standing out there.
Back hurting because I wasn’t used to standing for a while. I’d be lucky to make $12 to $13 out of that whole eight hours.”
Ever persistent, Eric still sells in Evanston at Chicago and Hamilton outside of Jewel-Osco. He’s gotten to make a few friends with the store employees who sometimes come out to chat with him on their breaks and often bring him something to eat.
“I love the spot because I love the customers. You meet different types of people. You meet people from Argentina, Russia, Germany, China and Florida. I like that diversity. They’re beautiful people. All of them. And I pray that God blesses them and they bless me. Even with a quarter. One person gave me a quarter. That’s all they had. I said, ‘bless you’ and I pray to God to bless that person.
“I just like to see people happy. I don’t know what it is about that… I don’t like to see nobody sad or mad. I don’t even like to see animals sad. I see two birds fighting and I’m like, ‘Hey, y’all cut that out.’ And they hear me and they stop fighting.”
Eric plans to increase his hours this summer to be more available to his customers. “I just gotta stick out there more,” Eric said. “But the sales, I’m sure it’ll pick up.
“And I’d like to say to my customers that it doesn’t matter what you give me. It’s just that you give it from your heart. I appreciate your support. Your smiles. Your hugs. Your laughter. It makes it worthwhile to be out there when I see that.”
By Ethan Ross
StreetWise Editorial Intern