When did you get involved with StreetWise?
I’ve been with StreetWise since August 24, 1992. I happened to be panhandling one day when Judd Lofchie came around and told me that he’s getting ready to open a paper that homeless can sell. I started helping out by giving badges to different vendors and then, when I saw the money that was coming in, I got myself a badge to start selling.
How did you come to be homeless?
It’s called “letting people move in with you.” I was trying to help this girl and her three kids and she ended up getting the landlord and my apartment, and I wound up on the streets.
Did you have any help getting your new apartment?
Yes, All God’s People. It’s a program that deals with homeless people. It helps them to go to the doctor and do many different things. They took me to Tinley Park to get my teeth [worked on.] They also paid my first month’s rent and security deposit in order for me to move into this new apartment. It’s a blessing.
What does it take to be a good vendor?
With StreetWise, you have to be about it. You’re not going to start making money right away. You have to be persistent, persistent, persistent. If you’re at that spot every day, I say within two weeks, you should be making money. If you were panhandling in a spot, go back to that spot and let the people see that you’re selling StreetWise now, that you are trying to make something of yourself. That’s what I did. You also have to have clean attire and stand presentable. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My daughters. I tell them, “I’ve got all of these degrees, but I can’t use them because I’m ill. Do better than me.” I have one going to be a psychiatrist. The other is either going to be a forensic scientist or a lawyer, but she’s still in school. They’ll be 28 in October. I tell them, “Always do better than me. Let me see you top what I did.”
What do you do in your spare time?
I go to Parkview Church, I’m a greeter there. I greet people on Sundays. We’re getting ready to have a book club. It’s (going to be) once a week, and I’m going to love it. I’ve been going to church all my life, but I quit going and I didn’t go for 26 years. Then, one Christmas, I went to Parkview Church and have been going ever since. They make you feel comfortable. They make you feel like you’re just at home. The pastors break it down so you can understand it. They explain things just like it is. I’ve really become part of a family there. All God’s People is great. Just like Parkview Church, they’re great. They both help all people. They welcome you with open arms. Nobody is turned around or turned down.
What’s your biggest challenge?
I’m a three-time cancer patient. And I’ve beat it three times. I’m a chronic diabetic. I’m asthmatic. I have a coronary heart disease. I have clogged arteries in my legs. But I still keep going. When a person just lays there and doesn’t want to do anything, you’re not going to get anything. Nothing comes to a sleeper, but a sleeper. Nothing comes to a dreamer, but a dreamer if you don’t get out there and fight for your dreams.
Do you have anything else to say?
If it wasn’t for StreetWise, things wouldn’t have turned out the way they have. I don’t know where I would have been by now. Thanks to StreetWise, All God’s People, and Parkview Church, I’m doing just great.