Our Vendors 

Don Smith

Mon, Jul 6, 2015

donsmithWhere did you grow up?
I grew up in Cabrini Green. My mom still lives in the new Cabrini Green. She is 84 years old and I dedicate my life to taking care of her, just like she took care of me.

What brought you to StreetWise?
I was having issues finding a job. I really wanted to be my own boss. When I first started it was a struggle, but I stuck in there, and look at me now, it turned out fine.

How long have you been at StreetWise?
Now it has been over 20 years, I started in 1995.

Where do you sell StreetWise?
I have been at Dearborn & Maple in the Gold Coast for 10 years, 1100 N. Dearborn. Mostly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Do you have any strategies for selling the magazine?
Stay humble, keep a smile, and stay sober. The stereotype with StreetWise Vendors is that they are homeless or drug addicts or whatever. It is not about being homeless, it is about helping yourself.

Is there something about the Gold Coast that you have learned by being a vendor there?
The neighborhood is very nice. When I first got there they tried to run me away, but I stuck around. I wasn’t even making any money there at first. I just kept coming and introducing myself to people and introducing the people I have met to others. People started warming up to me when they were seeing me every day. At one point, I put out an article titled “Don Smith: Mayor of Dearborn,” I sold a lot of copies of that one! I try to teach some other vendors that it is not going to happen overnight, you have got to show dedication. You have to be there every day and show them that this is your job!

What do you like most about Chicago?
There are nice people here. My customers are my best friends. They take care of me, and I take care of them.

What have you learned while working at StreetWise?
I learned to be independent, dedicated, honest and faithful.

You have a full-time job now, what are you doing?
I work maintenance with Cornerstone, I am a general handyman. I have been there for two years now. Cornerstone provides shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Sarah (Brown) is the one that told me about the job and she thought it could be a good fit. Sarah wrote me a letter of recommendation,, and i have been there ever since. I am satisfied where I am at.

What is in you future for now?
I want to stay humble, me and my wife, and keep my job.

What do you do for fun?
I am a bowler and a biker! I also hang out with my 30-year-old son. He is my best friend.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I want to thank god and thank StreetWise for being open and giving me this chance to get my life on track. If it wasn’t for StreetWise, there is no telling where I would be. If you have issues you need help with, StreetWise is the best place in the world to go, because a person like me will be here to help you.

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