How did you get started with StreetWise?
I had came home—back to Chicago—to bury my mother. When she passed, my father told me that he didn’t feel that he had too much more to live for because they had been together for so long. Six months later he passed, so I more or less became homeless. In the process of being homeless I dealt with the shelters, and they had a bulletin board with an advertisement for StreetWise.This was like back in 1995, ‘96—somewhere around there. So around 1998, I went to StreetWise, and I’ve been with them ever since. The advertisement was a promotion for individuals that wanted to get back into society, individuals that wanted to accomplish something but they had been down on their luck and they had been through some rough times. So, I took a chance. In a way, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. It’s a hard struggle. I’m very thankful for StreetWise for a lot of things. They helped me get back on my feet. They helped me realize a great deal of my mistakes and gave me a second chance. StreetWise offers you so many different opportunities—the thing is, you’ve gotta want it. That’s what’s important; you’ve gotta wanna change.
Where do you sell StreetWise?
I’m working Wicker Park right now. But really, I like Chicago as a whole as far as selling StreetWise because the people here are really wonderful. I mean, you’ve got your few that will give you a hard time, but overall, a big percentage of the people here are relatively very helpful and very, very friendly with you. It’s the way you treat them though—you give respect, you get respect. It’s a blessing—at least to me it is to be able to communicate with people like I do because they can put us all in one basket, which they try to do a lot of times. Our worst competitors are panhandlers that are on the street; they give us a bad name. They make it rough for a lot of us just trying to do the right thing. That’s where you learn to have patience and tolerance. It’s because the more that you treat StreetWise like it’s an opportunity and like it’s a job, then the more that you’ll get respected out there and the more that they are willing to be in your corner to help you out and to understand what you’re doing and what you’re all about.
What strategy do you use for selling the magazine?
My strategy is simply being able to treat an individual the way I want to be treated. My strategy is that I want consideration, I want respect, and I’m gonna give it. I’m thankful every morning that I wake up. That the Lord has blessed me with a new day, and I treat my customers the same way. I feel like it’s a blessing whenever I see them or whenever they recognize me because it’s not guaranteed that I’m able to see them again, so I give them the utmost consideration, and I try to do my job to the best of my ability. I let them know that this is a job. This is my way of living, making my means, paying my bills. Without it, I’d be like I was before; I’d be kind of lost.
What are your future plans?
Well I’ve been trying to get a one-bedroom apartment. Where I stay, it’s just a little, bitty room, but they call it a single occupancy. It’s very, very bad for my health. I’m an individual that has a very, very severe chronic illness, emphysema and prostate cancer. Where I’m at there’s no real ventilation, and the machines that I’m on every day and every night don’t allow me to get the oxygen or air that I need. I’m on oxygen every night. I’ve been praying and hoping, and eventually, I know that it will come to find another place. Right now I have a nurse that comes in once a week; she helps. Thank God for that, but I have to get stronger. I’ve gotta get healthier so that I can start doing these things on my own. In the meantime, it’s an uphill climb. So, I hope to get better. If I get my health better, I can do better.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would really, really, really, really, like for the people in Chicago to show their appreciation and to give our vendors a chance. Just give us an opportunity to do better. We can do it with their help; they are our main support. Without them, we’re weak; we’re hopeless, really. Our main objective and goal is to be able to give the readers what they want, something that they need, but at the same time to give our service. Service for the public, not just for one individual. Keep in mind that we’re all human. Give us all the support we can get and watch us grow. May God bless them.