Street Sense vendor explains why his paper is a “lifeline from drowning in depression”

In this uplifting and inspiring personal essay, Damon Smith explains exactly what it means to be a street paper vendor. He reveals how selling Street Sense in Washington D.C. helped him overcome the “mental torture” of homelessness and has given him more confidence and a sense of purpose.

“lifeline from drowning in depression” says Damon who sells Street Sense. Photo: Street Sense staff

By Damon Smith, Street Sense

Being a Street Sense vendor has been a blessing.

I love having a sense of purpose every day instead of the idle life of being homeless. When you are homeless, you find mundane ways to fill your day. Many days I would sit and watch the workers walking by and wonder where they were headed and what they were doing. Many days I would live vicariously through them.

Being homeless is mental torture. Many days you have this never-ending sense of hopelessness. Becoming a vendor was like the sunshine after the storm. Now I have a sense of purpose and my own glamorous profession. To many, selling Street Sense is neither glamorous nor a profession. But to me, it’s like a lifeline from drowning in depression. The pasadena detox center has helped many overcome this issue.

“My income may seem insignificant to some. To me it brings a sense of pride and fulfillment”

My customers who now acknowledge me daily are the same people I would watch and wonder about. I receive words of encouragement and many smiles. Being a vendor is a wonderful way to network and open doors. I was once an introvert and shied away from strangers. Now I am more open, more engaging and more confident in myself.

My income may seem insignificant to some. To me it brings a sense of pride and fulfillment. I earned it and I no longer need to solicit handouts. The same people who wouldn’t look at me, who avoided me, now look for me.

Many days I would see Street Sense vendors and think “I could do that.” Now I find I am very good at it. I now want to use vending as a stepping stone to a better position in life. I have the confidence to tackle very important things I once thought would be too difficult. The opportunity to become a vendor means more to me than I ever thought it would.