Vaniecee Warren loves to work–and that’s putting it mildly. “I can’t deal with living and not having enough,” says Warren. “I don’t wait for income to come in. That’s why I refuse to quit.” She even dresses for work–a white button down tucked into black pants, black boots, hair knotted in a bun. “Me, always been a responsible type person. I always value working.” she said emphatically.
Born in the “Southern states,” Warren began in the ﬁelds–chopping grass and tending to crops. After moving to Chicago in the ʻ70s with her mother, she found a youth job with the Chicago Park District. Tutoring for a lab class in a local high school, Warren developed a relationship with a teacher who referred her to her next job.
“Tutoring wasn’t working out well, because I couldn’t concentrate,” said Warren. “As I teach someone else, it was kind of hard to focus.” Warren attended two semesters at Chicago State University, and found it equally hard to concentrate. “I couldn’t keep up with my studies,” said Warren. “I didn’t have that energy in my brain to study. I would go home to do my homework but I had a blockage.”
Warren stopped schooling before she failed any classes. “So I ﬁgured I had to work full time,” said Warren. After applying to serve at a local McDonald’s, Warren cooked up fries and Quarter Pounders for two years. She found herself restless and anxious when dealing with customers.
With her anxiety, Warren moved on to working second-shift factory positions. As years passed, Warren was arrested. “When I was held in County Jail for three years, those years conformed me,” she said. “Because I was locked away for a while and they didn’t allow me to move, I thought.”
Upon release, she was tired of suffering. “At one point, I didn’t want to go out places. I just wanted to hide away,” said Warren. She worked to change herself–and so the new Vaniecee walked the streets of Chicago. On the “L,” she picked up a StreetWise magazine and discovered the ofﬁce was in her neighborhood. It was July 2012, and Warren entered the ofﬁce for job orientation.
“I take my vending seriously even though no one’s watching me,” said Warren. “I knew this is a job and it’s important for me to be there to meet my schedule.
Warren has found that her anxiety with meeting people fades while vending. “I appreciate them and I enjoy talking to them,” she said. “We have long conversations.” And Warren throws in something extra that $2 can’t buy. “When people ask for directions, I love to direct them,” Warren said. “For festivals on the weekends, I give them directions to which way Clark Street is. When I’m in that world of helping so people won’t be lost, there’s no anxiety.”
When many celebrated the Fourth of July, Warren marked her one-year anniversary of working at StreetWise. “I ﬁgured I want to forget the past,” she said. “Like today, I’m only looking forward to getting out there and working.” Steadfast, Warren is prepared for work, holding her bucket of ice water for the swelter – carrying her umbrella, just in case.