Vadii Ellis

By: Alexandria Spillman November 7, 2016

I was born and raised in Chicago, and I’d be lost if you took me out of here. I live in Marquette Park now, but I’ve hopped around different neighborhoods in my life. I’m familiar with the Woodlawn, South Shore, and Englewood areas, mostly the South Side. Sometime soon I want to move to North Carolina, but I don’t know when just yet.


I’ve been with StreetWise since it started back in 1992. I sell my magazines at numerous locations, but my best location is on Clark Street where I first started selling. There was a Walgreens at 2317 N. Clark; that is now closed, but right across the street is some brick seating. I sit there, and that spot has been good to me.


My favorite part of the job is interacting with the people. Most of my customers are pretty nice. I remember back when I first started, the first Christmas Eve; I’ll never forget that. I had no money in my pocket, and I had probably 20 papers. I went from no money and 20 papers to no papers and $200 on that Christmas Eve. There was a steady flow of customers that night. They’d give me a dollar for the paper, and then say, “You take this. Merry Christmas!” And there were a lot of $20s coming in when they said, “You take this.”


And the best part was that these people weren’t even regular customers yet; they were just out there and generous. I have regular customers now that I’ve been at it for a while. I see them every week.


Since I’ve been selling StreetWise for so long, I’ve learned a lot, like how most people want to help a person who is homeless or down on their luck. They really want to help. But you can’t be out there constantly begging. People get tired of looking at you if you’re just out there begging all day, every day. I’m not doing anything great, but I’m a vendor, and I’m giving you something for your money. I have a product to give you instead of just sitting out there doing nothing.


Selling the magazine has also taught me how to be more appreciative of the money I make because I’m earning it now. I used to have a button that said, “This is my job” and that’s what it is for me.


I’m also working with the STEP program when I’m not selling my magazines. It’s time for me to move on to bigger things. I got help putting a resume together, and right now, I’m looking for work in anybody’s kitchen, primarily as a dishwasher. I figure, once you’re back there washing dishes, anything is possible. You could even move up from dishwasher to head cook. I know that because I experienced it before when I was making pizzas!


When I’m not selling StreetWise magazines or applying for jobs, I like to sit on the couch and watch baseball and basketball. My two favorite teams are the Cubs and the Bulls. I’m a Cubs fan born and raised on the South Side, but I’m pro-Chicago, so I’ll support the White Sox and even the Bears.


Before we close out, I want to make a big shout-out to Perry; he’s a regular. He gets his magazine weekly, and if he doesn’t get a magazine he gets upset. So don’t worry Perry, I got you. To all my other customers, thank you for the years of support—because I have been doing this for years. I had no idea that I would make a career out of StreetWise when I started.