Our Vendors 

Andy Pappas: a member of the family

Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Andy Pappas, June 2013 Four-year StreetWise veteran Andy Pappas discovered the organization the same way that other Chicagoans do: on the street!

Making his way downtown to visit a friend on business, Pappas bumped into a StreetWise vendor and bought a magazine. He read it and knew it was something he wanted to become a part of. After asking the vendor if he knew where a job might be available, Pappas walked through the doors of the StreetWise offices to attend an orientation.

Born and raised in Chicago, Pappas is separated from his mother and brothers, Chris and Bobby, who all reside in California. “So I call them up on the phone a lot,” says Pappas. “I’ve got no family here except for my fiancée.”

Pappas has been engaged for exactly one year and two months. He lives in Royal Park Nursing Home, as does his fiancée.

“She inspires me to work,” says Pappas. However, work has not come so easy to Pappas throughout his time as a Chicagoan.

After dropping out of high school his sophomore year, Pappas was determined to find a job. “I didn’t want to be homeless and go to a shelter,” says Pappas.

After high school, Pappas dabbled in many positions: bus boy, dish washer, pizza delivery man, security guard. “I was on my own and I figured I had to have some sort of income to pay my hotel bill!”

Pappas served as a guard for a company located on Elston and Pulaski for five years. While working a double shift with little rest, Pappas’s supervisor discovered him sleeping in his Chevy Camaro. He was terminated. “But I am content now selling StreetWise!”

Pappas feels that he has overcome the challenge of finding employment through StreetWise. He sells on weekdays by the Starbucks on Wells and Van Buren after a guard whom he befriended suggested Pappas move closer to the “L” station to get more customers.

“I like having a conversation with my customers,” says Pappas. “One woman bought a magazine from me and asked me how my business was doing. She was a stranger, and it was fun!”

As a businessman, Pappas does his best to read up on each edition so he can answer the questions of his buyers.

Pappas is grateful for the opportunities StreetWise has given him. “I am glad I am in an employed environment. I love being part of the family at StreetWise,” says Pappas.

He felt at home, especially, when he had recurring lung infections. Hospitalized in 2011 and again in 2012 for pneumonia, Pappas had to stop selling StreetWise for some time.

Pappas was turned down when trying to find work. “So the day I came back to StreetWise, they said I was always welcome here. I was glad,” Pappas said.

Determined to continue business, Pappas has asserted his place in the StreetWise family.

“I don’t go up to people and say, ‘Buy StreetWise and help the homeless!’ I just say, ‘Would you like to buy StreetWise?’ You don’t even talk about homelessness. It’s just about the product.”

By Josh Kahn
StreetWise Contributor

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