Our vendors: Joseph Capozzi (Real Change, Seattle, USA)

By Real Change vendor Joseph Capozzi

Today, I feel as if I have won the lottery. My name is Joseph and I have a wonderful story to tell all who will listen.

Growing up was not easy for me. The constant challenges of being poor and not having loving parents took its toll.

When I try to blend into society ­– to gain some sense of normalcy – I am often reminded of what side of the fence I belong on.

I have lived a torturous life. Quite often, I’m hurt by the rude remarks that are belted at me like an insult from an abusive parent. I’ve known neglect and abuse my whole life. The burdens of my past haunt me like stormy weather.

On good days, I’m only reminded when I try to sleep. On bad days, my feelings are crippling.

I tell this story in the hope that all who read this can put their biases to the side and try to understand that not all of us are created equal.

But I also know that things can change. In March, I was feeling too weak to talk. My life was in danger from so many factors. I was declining rapidly.

I felt as if I was losing my voice forever. My voice was my money. I sell the Real Change paper and I felt it was time to call it quits. With my voice gone, I couldn’t “pitch” the paper anymore.

For me, going into the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s (DESC) Third Avenue shelter felt like giving up. After five years of homelessness, any remaining dignity I had left was gone. I felt fortunate to get a bed, and my plan was to die inside this “war zone”. If you’ve been by there, you know what I’m talking about.

Joseph Capozzi. Photo by Jon Williams

On my second day there, two staff members came into the men’s dorm and said DESC had just opened a new shelter on the first floor of the King County Jail. I reluctantly signed up, thinking this was just a new way of “policing” our homeless community.

“Oh well,” I thought. “Maybe I could get into a program, even if it is in jail.”

I got accepted and moved there the next day.

A very kind person greeted me and made me feel right at home. To my amazement, it was a sanctuary for my tired soul. The brand new facility didn’t resemble the jail upstairs at all. I know. I’ve been there.

Immediately, I knew I had got lucky. The smell of fresh paint was beautiful. We have a community room. We are never asked to leave and can come and go as we please.

There are single shower units and bathroom stalls. The bunks are new and comfortably spaced. The dining area is open 24 hours and has a microwave. We even have a courtyard for smokers. All the amenities one would expect at a group home are available.

To me, it is exactly that: A group home for people like me who need to not give up. I’ve lost my sense of direction during homelessness, but I will now be seeing a counselor and getting all the help I need.

Today, I cry tears of joy and still have trouble believing it’s true.

If you or someone you know is battling homelessness, please reach out. Don’t pass judgment. Be kind. We, as homeless folks, lose constantly to the struggles of that burden.

Now, with a new lease on life, I have the opportunity I need to keep my voice and my job at Real Change. I’m trying to have a better life and be a better part of the community. I hope you, the reader, will accept me again.

I would like to thank both organizations for their support and for your love of our unfortunate homeless community. Thank you for letting me share my story.