When I came to StreetWise in April 2012, I had been clean and sober since October of 2009. I wanted very much to stay sober and on the straight and narrow, but I knew my lifestyle had to change if I wanted to remain alcohol- and drug-free. I knew that in order to move in this direction, I had to start by making an honest living. I applied for many jobs in many different sectors, including skill and trade work. Momentary triumphs came and went when I was hired at two good jobs, only to be let go soon after because of my criminal background. I had eight felonies on my record, all of which had to do with drugs. Despite the fact that I had no violent crime in my background, I was constantly passed up for jobs due to my record. StreetWise, for me, was the last house on the block- my last resort for gaining honest, gainful, and legal employment. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always worked for someone else, whether that was a company, a manager, or a supervisor who told me what to do. While I understand the importance of these management structures, I was eager to finally work for myself. Through the vendor program at StreetWise, I was able to accomplish this while also remaining honest and true to my principles. Once I became self-employed, my world opened up! I was able to have some free time to work on other things such as getting my criminal record sealed through StreetWise Social Services, and taking care of my physical health by running with the Lawson House running team with the organization Back on My Feet. Through the organization, I was able to train for three marathons, bettering myself while simultaneously contributing to the betterment of others. I literally found myself a second wind, in all aspects of my life. Through diligence, dedication and determination, I operate a successful business vending from my location at Chicago and Franklin. I feel part of something bigger than myself, something I never could have imagined back in 2012 when I arrived at StreetWise. I am so grateful to StreetWise and the Twelve Step programs in which I participate for being there to catch me when I fell, and helping me recover my life and build upon it to create a better future for myself and others. My social network of friends, colleagues, and fellow vendors is so inspirational and amazing, and they have helped me immensely. Before coming to StreetWise, I spent so much of my time trying to achieve and get ahead by myself, but now I truly understand the importance of community, both in my life and the world at large. I want to let everyone who has helped me to thrive know that I truly appreciate your active participation in my recovery, sobriety, and progression in making an honest living. When I lost my mother in February of 2017, I knew where to go and who to lean on, and I can’t express my gratitude enough. Today, I’ve moved from single room occupancies into my very own apartment thanks to the financial progress I’ve made through my work with StreetWise. After being homeless for three years, I truly feel blessed to have my very own place to rest my head. I’m also blessed and grateful for my role as a StreetWise field supervisor, which I attained through dedication to the organization and hard work. My position offers me the opportunity to be a role model to other vendors and teach them useful selling techniques; being a field supervisor is one of the many ways that I am able to pay forward the gifts that were freely given to me. I often tell new vendors to work smarter, not harder, and every time I offer guidance to them I remember my own journey to a better life through economic independence. I’d like to thank StreetWise, my customers, and all the rest of my social network for helping me to learn to help myself and others. I’m forever grateful.
By: Gregory Boudreaux August 7, 2017