It was 12 years ago when a resolute Joann Nukes first stepped foot inside the StreetWise office to secure herself a badge.
She had traveled from her hometown of Raeford, North Carolina, leaving her family. “I moved because I got tired with them,” said Nukes. “They do what they want to do and I cannot deal with it. I want to be independent and working.”
Once landed in Chicago, Nukes searched for work but was left empty-handed, becoming homeless. It was then when she became determined to find work, leading her straight to StreetWise.
There, Nukes introduced herself to Greg Pritchett, StreetWise director of distribution and vendor services – who Nukes knows as, “My favorite buddy.”
And the feelings couldn’t be more mutual.
“I am very proud of Joann and where she is today and seeing the strides that she has made,” says Pritchett. “She was really serious and willing to go further.”
Nukes was successful during her first attempt to sell magazines. “It got me back up on my feet,” says Nukes. “I like doing it and it is making me stronger.”
Although, Nukes’ time at StreetWise was cut short. Nukes began to be prescribed several medications–while they were supposed to make Nukes feel better, they did the opposite. Nukes also developed a learning disability.
Recently off medications, Nukes has dedicated much of her time to overcoming her disability.
“Thank god!” Nukes rejoiced after putting an end to her medications.
“She looks a lot better and she is taking StreetWise and really doing it,” says Pritchett.
StreetWise has also helped Nukes address her learning disability, which has considerably improved since attending tutoring sessions.
After recuperating, Nukes came to her best-buddy to ask to return to selling magazines. “I have definitely seen Joann take the ball this time. It almost didn’t work out, but I could see the look in her eye, there was something different. And she is like a little sister to me,” said Pritchett.
Nukes walked out of orientation at the top of her class, scoring 300 sales in the last month. “She’s been out in the field, working, and really taking advantage of it in a positive way so I really believe that she has found herself this time around,” says best buddy Pritchett.
An adamant Bears, Bulls, and Cubs fan, Nukes sells outside Soldier Field and the United Center regularly. Also an animal-lover, Nukes posts up near Lincoln Park Zoo to observe nature.
Before selling in the afternoons at her favorite spots, Nukes recently scheduled classes at Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy-King College to earn her G.E.D. “I can’t wait,” says Nukes. “I signed up for it and at 10 o’clock and I will be there.”
And with StreetWise just being there for her, Nukes is determined to stick by Pritchett’s side. “It feels like my family here all over again,” says Nukes, gazing over her best buddy’s desk.
By Josh Kahn