Our Vendors 

StreetWise vendors on the Great Migration

Thu, Mar 6, 2014

Vendors in the StreetWise Monday afternoon writing workshop discussed the Great Migration and the reasons why many people migrate. They read poems and lyrics by Langston Hughes and Woody Guthrie. The vendors noticed that migration is often driven by the need to find work, the need to start over, the urge to fulfill dreams and the desire to find a better life.

Their discussion was followed by the vendors writing about their own migrations, their moves over the course of their lifetimes. Most of the vendors have moved many times and it was interesting for them to see that the reasons for all migration, even just moving across town, are often the same.

– Marcie Bearman

Greg Nelson, June 2013Migration Was Good to Me
By Greg Nelson

I have moved around since I was 17 years old. I have learned from moving from place to place, and meeting many people from different countries, that most of us have the same problems.

I once had a dream to be a martial arts teacher and a baseball player.
But now my dream is to love my long, tall, sweet, dreadlocked woman!
I hope her dream is the same as mine.

Migration was a good thing for me. I think I learned to make friends easily from my father who was American/Chinese. If you are friendly and good with people it is easier to move from one place to another.

Andy AllenFrom the Gutter-Most to the Uttermost
By A. Allen

Many people move from different neighborhoods to have better lives.
In Chicago, neighborhoods and communities carry social stigma and status that is associated with the economics and the social condition of the environment.
Often the conditions of neighborhoods are determined politically. Politics are influenced by votes and money, but I believe it is money that buys security and safety.

Security comes from police presence. If police are around they tend to secure communities from drug and gang violence. Wealthier communities have more police presence.

When there is a lack of police presence, the negative forces of gangs and crime take control of the neighborhoods. These areas then becomeslums or ghettos. They become the gutter-most communities.

Some of the people who live in these gutter-most communities, understandably long to migrate to safer, law abiding, more positive townships. They long to migrate from the gutter-most to the uttermost.

James Metzgar 1The Benefits and Challenges of Moving
By James Metzgar

I did a lot of moving in my early life because my father was a career military man. He left the military at one time to be a civilian dentist and laterreturned to military service.

During my childhood, my family lived and moved between Georgia,
Texas, California, and Illinois. We even lived for a time in Japan and Germany. I attended high school in New Mexico and I went to college in Ohio.

While I experienced difficulties moving to many cities and frequently changing schools, I feel lucky to have seen much more of the nation and the world than most children have the opportunity to see.

I came to Chicago as a young adult in 1968 and since that time my life has been very stable. My only moves within Chicago have been to different neighborhoods. I moved from Lakeview to Uptown and very recently I moved to the Edgewater neighborhood.

The last move was only a move of eight blocks to the north. I think it was a good move because I am now living in a nicer apartment and a much cleaner, safer neighborhood.

Jeff Berg5Moving Can Make Life Hard
By Jeffrey Berg

Ever since I was young I migrated between many different states.

Because of my father’s job in air traffic control and in the study of flight patterns, we moved from Colorado where I was born, to Leavenworth, Kansas when I was 5. When I was 10 we moved to Arlington, Texas because of my father’s job. Later, always following work, we moved as a family to Chicago and then to New York.
I worked as an electrical and mechanical technician and lived in New York for approximately 20 years. I moved back to Chicago in 2000 and I have been here since that time.

I think that moving and being continually uprooted was disruptive for me. I had trouble adjusting to the many changes. It was hard for me to adjust tonew schools, to make new friends, and to find stable employment. As a result I think all of this migration has been a negative factor in my life.

Will PlowmanWilliam K. Plowman spoke about moving to Chicago from Jacksonville, Illinois. William is legally blind and moved up here to get training from theLighthouse for the Blind.

He describes the cost/ benefit of moving from place to place as being “like a saloon door.”

His says his lifestyle allows him freedom and self-sufficiency. His living arrangement does not have a curfew or religious affiliation, or the participation in prayer or attending services that shelters affiliated with religions sometimes require.

But there are inevitable stresses of being financially needy, moving frequently and at times being homeless. It is often difficult to meet basic needs and to figure out which expenses must to be covered. Often meals are eaten in soup kitchens and at the StreetWise building in order to save money needed to cover rent. Sometimes soup kitchens serve food at just the time sales are best for StreetWise vendors. Then it makes more sense to pick up something at an inexpensive fast food chain.

The transportation is better in this area than where he lived before and living in Chicago allows him to be more self-sufficient.

Greg Pritchett at StreetWise Magazine recently helped William find housing at the Wilson Hotel. Will describes his room as small enough only for a bed. He shares one bathroom with about 80 other residents on his floor. There is a shared kitchen with a microwave in the lobby of the hotel.

But there is heat and this has been a long, cold winter in Chicago. The hotel and the area around the hotel is safe and the people who live there follow the rules.

William is able to cover his rent at the Wilson Hotel and also to afford food by piecing together his disability income and by budgeting the money he earns selling Streetwise Magazine.

Jason MetzdorffJason Metzdorff also spoke about his life of migration and the 13 years he has been living at the Wilson Hotel.

After his mother died Jason had to find his own place to live. Lack of money caused his migration to the Wilson Hotel and to becoming a vendor at StreetWise.

Jason says “the hotel has changed for the better over the years.” He thinks that there is less crime, and there are fewer bugs and vermin now. He thinks that because the hotel houses a working population, the residents are more stable. Residents must show a “working proof of income” in order to live in the Wilson Hotel, according to James.

Jason thinks his migration has been difficult overall, but the positives he has learned are to keep to himself, and to stay out of trouble.

Jason says he lives in a good location now. This location allows him easier access to StreetWise, to food, to transportation and to potential customers.

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