Our Vendors 

Jason Metzdorff: Meeting people and making a living

Mon, Aug 27, 2012

April, 2013

It was a very lucky day for an unfortunate Jason Metzdorff when he just so happened to walk past a sign that read “StreetWise office.” That was the day he took his life back and became a street vendor. Jason began working at StreetWise on January 5, 2011.

In May of 2009, Jason was laid off from his job as a bicycle messenger due to the recession, and his unemployment funding soon ran out. Being a bicycle messenger for 27 years, Jason had little experience in working elsewhere. StreetWise became his “last hope.” Jason has been staying in the Wilson Men’s Hotel, an SRO (single room occupancy), since 2000, the year his mother passed away and his father “disappeared” from his life. Tina, his sister, lives in Morton Grove. The very-affordable, cubicle hotel allowed Jason to remain there while selling StreetWise.

On that first day, Jason hesitated before entering StreetWise. He wasn’t looking for charity, but once he understood StreetWise’s motto, “It’s a hand up not a handout,” Jason knew he wanted to work for StreetWise. His greatest challenge at the beginning was to hone his people skills. But StreetWise, Jason said, “is like a family” and its participants give each other pointers on how to never let their guard down and to be prepared and accept everything that comes their way. People may stereotype them, but they are businessmen and women and, therefore, have risen above that stereotype.
When Jason first began working at StreetWise, he was given 15 copies of the magazine for free, and sold each for $2. Soon he was paying his entire rent with ease.

Overcoming many obstacles and challenges, Jason has a bright future ahead of him. He has demonstrated his devotion and determination to make StreetWise a better place. Recently, the magazine has become a more technologically advanced business by giving its customers a choice to pay with Paypal on their smart phones. While using this app, the consumer types in the vendor’s code so that the money goes to them. Then the vendor can pick up the money they earned from the StreetWise headquarters in Uptown. Jason finds this method to be a much safer way to collect money, so that the vendors are not targets of violence and theft. Jason is very excited to see how this new method will unfold, and he hopes that over time StreetWise will continue to grow.

Jason Metzdorff, 56, can be found near the Dominick’s on 5201 N. Sheridan Rd or near the Starbucks on 4753 N. Broadway (Lawrence Ave. side). Due to interruption by panhandlers, he had to leave his previous location outside Uptown’s Target. To find his service hours, Jason can be easily located on social media, including Facebook.
When he can, Jason tries to help current panhandlers join StreetWise. Jason is respectful to everybody he meets because he doesn’t know if they will be future customers.

Written by Miles Alsberry, Arjah’Nay Herron & Milon Hutchinson
Students from the Latin School of Chicago

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