You may know your vendor in Portland, but did you know that he or she is one of tens of thousands of vendors around the globe, working their way out of homelessness and poverty with newspapers papers just like Street Roots. Here are a few of the faces from our sister papers.
“The shift in my type of work was drastic. I gained responsibility for my working hours and my earnings. Selling the magazine, I met artists, actors, singers and lots of very nice people. I showed them my poems. Ocas turned my life around.”
— Pilar Ferreira, Ocas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
“When I stood at the crossroads — at the choice between life and existence — I chose life. I received help and support which I could not have survived without. Now everything is going well for me, and I myself am starting to help people who have also fallen into difficult situations.
— Nikolai Romanov, The Way Home, Odessa, Ukraine
“It’s not just the money. It helps me to get out of the house and have a focus: to work and meet people. I sell the paper at Vital Records, on Fifth and Charlotte. ... Every day I’m able, I’m there. I do feel better if I get out and try.
I have a son and three grandkids. Even at the worst, I carried these pictures. I would sleep with them at night and pray I get to a better place. To be there for my kids. I’m not there yet. But I’m better. One day at a time. I go to meetings: AA, NA. I take my medicines, stay sober and clean. Work best I can. I can’t leave my family any money. But I can leave knowing I gave them a lot of love. And they can read my story and know who I was. That I tried. That’s why I wanted to do this.”
— Bobbie Prince, The Contributor, Nashville, Tenn.
“I’ve always said that whether they buy the magazine or don’t buy the magazine, if someone takes five minutes out their day to stop and have a chat then that’s worth more to me than any pound coin in my pocket.
— Peter, The Big Issue, Glasgow, Scotland
“It’s interesting that I am now working here,” says Alice Pina Ncata, gesturing towards the sea after a moment of quiet reflection. “So close to the island where they were being kept.” She is talking about Robben Island in South Africa. Ncata was an activist in the struggle against apartheid, suffering a debilitating stroke on the very day Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. Robben Island is only a few miles into the sea from where she sells the Big Issue South Africa, and it was where the prisoners she campaigned for spent many years.
“I used to be such an active person,” she says upon reflection. “But life is so beautiful. ... I have gained a lot of experience.” Then she picks up the previous issue of the magazine, pages through it, and stops at the vendor art section. There it is, her poem, talking about the experience of losing her only son. It comes with a remarkable title in the face of her loss: ‘It is well with my soul.’
— Alice Pina Ncata, Big Issue South Africa
profiles and photos compiled by the Street News Service