Our vendors: V.W. (Streetwise, Chicago, USA)

By V.W., StreetWise

V.W. says it was “divine intervention” that brought her to StreetWise.

“I went to a homeless luncheon in 2010, and there was a StreetWise representative there. I was in a shelter at the time. With the help of Mercy House, I was able to receive housing. Then one day, I found a StreetWise sitting on the EL. I was suffering; I didn’t have any money. My rent was paid by CHA, but I didn’t have things like tissue and dish soap! I noticed in the magazine that the zip code was 60640, which is the same as mine! I walked over to find out where the office was on July 5, 2012 and came to the orientation. I have been aboard ever since! I haven’t missed a single week!

“It was a wonderful find, because it ended up being very valuable to me. I was doubtful originally, but the other vendors really encouraged me. I kept going out and just meeting more and more people. Now I have dedicated regulars and I’ve been a vendor for going on three years now.

“I have learned about what a great organization it is. Sometimes people have a past, and it makes it really hard to get employed. It is hard to get work and it is hard to get housing. I have appreciated the opportunity that Mercy House and StreetWise have given me.

“I’ve been based at the Jewel at Berwyn and Broadway since I started. I am always 15 feet away from the driveway. I get walking customers and a lot of car customers! They just pull up to the curb behind me. I always watch other vendors [to learn effective strategies for selling the magazine]. I like to always have the magazine on hand and to look professional. I keep the magazine in my hand to draw attention to it.

“When people ask, I explain that it is a magazine that provides self-employment. A lot of people think that we are raising money for StreetWise: they don’t know that we make our living by purchasing them [for 90 cents] and then coming back out and selling them [for $2]. I make it clear to each person I talk to that I pay for those magazines. It is important that they know, and people really respect that. It is what it is all about: talking and communicating. It builds the relationships with my customers too.

“It seems to me that I am always seeing different faces coming through Edgewater. I think festivals bring people up to the neighbourhood, and they stop and ask questions about StreetWise.

“I grew up in southern Illinois and came to Chicago back in the ‘70s when I was just 7 years old. My mom wanted to leave the South, so she followed a relative to Chicago and we have been here ever since. I like that Chicago is a city that people want to see! Tourists want to have StreetWise as a souvenir!

I love music! I love Adele! V103 has been playing her song and I just love her voice. I love Rhythm & Soul. And – oh! – David Bowie! I have been going on to YouTube and listening to him. His most recent release – oh my! – that man’s voice! I also love Bobby Womack, Anthony Hamilton, Johnny Gill, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, and several more. I also like learning and taking notes is something I have always been good at.

“I have a back condition so I filed for disability, but I want to keep on with StreetWise. StreetWise and Mercy housing have really opened the door. It has really provided hope for me. I had no source of income. But they didn’t care about my background and gave me an opportunity to make some money. Everyone needs money. I was never the type to turn to illegal ways, and it was depressing me that I was so poor. It started messing with my head and I was worried I would be in a psych hospital. StreetWise has taken the stress off of me, as I now have an income. It provides self-sufficiency for me. It is my source of hope.”