“real change,” the homeless

While in Seattle yesterday I was lucky to find one of my favorite reads, a street newspaper. Since learning about this network of national, even global, homeless newspapers, I make it a point to seek out its vendors wherever I travel. Helping these people help themselves gives me great satisfaction. Giving money to individuals seems a more organic thing for me to do than putting a check in an envelope, addressed to an organization. I do some of that, but I so prefer pressing my money into the hand of someone whose smile blesses me in return.

In this week’s copy of Seattle’s “Real Change,” was the following article which warmed my heart, as I’m sure it will warm yours.

Vendor of the Week
Paulette Bade

Paulette Bade has an infectiously positive attitude. When I arrive to meet her, just past 8 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning, she’s already been selling the paper for over an hour. We can see our breath and the sidewalk where she’s selling is mostly quiet, but Paulette is all smiles. When she sees me, she exclaims that it’s so cold this morning she probably wouldn’t have shown up if she were me. I find it hard to believe; Paulette always shows up, 7 a.m., six days a week, without fail. She is happy to be selling a paper she believes in, talking with customers she knows and cares about, and saving money for her future.

Paulette has been selling Real Change outside the Whole Foods store at 64th and Roosevelt since the start of the new year, moving recently from her previous location at the QFC down the road. Luckily, staying in the same neighborhood, she’s been able to maintain a lot of her same customers–people who still stop by to visit with their favorite vendor and buy a paper once a week.

Image via Wikipedia

When she started selling the paper–in 1999, incredibly–it was only to make some extra cash. Her ambition soon swelled, though, and she now sells more than 300 papers each month. Starting out, Paulette had been homeless for close to eight months, staying in a local DESC shelter. She eventually moved into Nickelsville, the only place that would let her keep her two cats and where she met her current boyfriend. The four of them have since moved into an apartment near the store.

“Now I want to put money in the bank. I want to do better for myself,” she tells me. Paulette has been saving up her earnings from selling the paper in hopes of moving into a better home, somewhere where they can have more space and the two kitties can roam around.

As we talk, customers leaving the store or walking by greet Paulette like an old friend. They know her well, and she knows them. She points out customers to me, telling me who writes poetry and who buys the paper for the crossword puzzles. She loves this part of the job, even with the uncertainty that sometimes comes along with it.

“You never know from one day to the next how many you’re going to sell or how much you’re going to make,” she says. But even on slow days she powers through, reading the new issue each week, trying both to know her product and her community.

When I ask what her customers outside of Whole Foods mean to her, she is flushed with joy.

“I’m thankful to all my customers. I appreciate them just stopping by and saying ‘Hi.’ Their smiles make my day, everyday.”

written by Adrienne Brown

paulette’s teaching me about simplicity…and love… for all…hugmamma.

former homeless songwriter, chris scott’s story

Homeless Lessons Learned was produced by Andrew Diffee, a talented young college student majoring in videography. While looking for subject matter for a required video production assignment, Andrew and I crossed paths outside The Contributor office downtown. Intrigued by the details of my living situation, and my positive attitude and outlook in the midst of it all, he decided to tell my story. We arranged a shooting date on a Sunday afternoon, and armed with a film crew and a pizza, production began.

I have lived and survived the last 18 months in the woods on the back side of Fort Negley (coincidently named after General James Scott Negley). That makes me a veteran with an honorable discharge who has lived on a former military installation all while trying to establish himself in a new city. But on December 3rd, 2010, after a long, hard “tour of duty,” I finally moved into an apartment. (Selling The Contributor had a lot to do with that.)

Life is different when you have a roof over your head and a safe place to go. For me, that has become an achievement and a reality. But for so many of my dear brothers, sisters and friends, it is not within their reach at this point in time. I know what they are going through every night, night after night, with no place to go, no place to be. Wherever they try to lay their heads, they end up being either ticketed or incarcerated for trespassing.

During the entire 18 months I camped on that hill, I was never ticketed or jailed for trespassing. I did, however, have everything I own dragged down the hill and thrown in the back of a garbage truck–twice! (It’s much easier the second time.) I made it through Nashville‘s coldest winter in 30 years in a tent I built myself. I survived the flood of 2010 and didn’t lose one thing to the rising waters. I did whatever I had to do to make it happen, help my fellow-man, and survive. How I did it and what I learned over that period of time is the focus of Homeless Lessons Learned.

Armed with a plan to alleviate the plight of my brothers and sisters on the street, those who attend the screening will learn about ways they can get involved. I believe that 2011 is going to be a year of growth and change for a lot of folks. Things are going to get better. I have seen so much happen in 2010 and I know that we’re just getting warmed up. Things can’t stay the way they are. Justice must prevail for everyone. We are Americans! And more importantly, we’re family. Together we’re stronger–as individuals as a community, and as a nation.

a man with a story to tell…of compassion… for all…hugmamma.

Note: A public screening of Homeless Lessons Learned, a 45-minute documentary, was held on 1/12/11 at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church (DPC).