Wayne Smith, 60, has been a vendor for 2½ years in Evanston, where he has lived since age 7. He rooms in a house with shared kitchen and bathroom. Previously, he lived in shelters for two years. He became homeless because he couldn’t afford an apartment after child support deductions. Later, he was on a court-ordered plan, but his employer did not send in payments despite deductions shown on Smith’s checks. Smith had not kept the handwritten check stubs and was therefore unable to sue.
What happened that led you to need StreetWise’s services?
I lost my [limo driver’s] license. I am getting my child support reviewed. It’s going to take a little longer for me to pay it off, but I’m able to live. I want to thank my [StreetWise] customers. Neil and Elizabeth help me out and buy every issue. Eric (and his son Rick,) he puts me to work at least once or twice during the week. He has seven buildings in the area and I help him; during the winter we do snow removal and in the summer and spring I’ve been cutting grass and helping with the garbage. Without StreetWise I wouldn’t have made these connections.
Do you like vending the magazine?
It motivates me. I get up every morning. I’m at my spot by 7 a.m. I go “Good Morning, have a nice day.” And, if I come out in the afternoons, “good afternoon.” Other than that, I’m not trying to get into your face. I also work for Connections for the Homeless, they have the homeless shelter up north.
Is that a paid job?
Yes it is. Part-time. I help with move-ins and move-outs, maintenance and cleaning of apartments where people have left stuff and clean it out so others can move in. I’ve been associated with Connections for about 12 years. I’ve lived in the shelter and I got to know the staff and the people. Started out with me doing snow removal for them around the church, and then it went into me doing more work.
So it must be good to feel like the community you grew up in is helping to support you now.
It is. I’d [also] like to thank Sue. She buys from me religiously each week and I just love her dog! Poppy. And Claire, the social worker over at Hilda’s Place.
How old’s your daughter now?
Alyssa’s 24. And my granddaughter is 7. [I don’t see them] as often as I would like because they live on the West Side of Chicago. And she’s working, I’m hoping to get her a little bit during the summer, my granddaughter.
What do you do for enjoyment?
I like to watch movies. I like going by myself, I like to actually watch the movie.
Do you live by a motto?
Well I just don’t let myself get stressed. I quit smoking.
That’s great! Why?
I had cancer in my bladder. Low-grade, thank God. So they went in, took it out, so I still had to go in, at first after three months. And they said there’s a good chance I’ll have to continue to come back. So July, I’m going to go back in, check if there’s something. I’m also trying to give up sugar.
So what’s your 5-year plan?
Hopefully, I want to get my license back! If I get my license, my life will become somewhat better.
Brittany Langmeyer and Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Publisher & Editor-In-Chief