I walk into my first Contributor paper release meeting in over a year and recognize Dale immediately. He still has his signature mustache, his kind eyes and a warm smile that matches his sweet spirit.
Dale has been selling The Contributor for nearly eight years to his loyal customers in Franklin. We talk for about half an hour, and Dale lets me write it up for a vendor spotlight.
Well Dale, where should we jump in?
I just wish our customers would smile more. I mean everyone looks so… I can’t say broken, they just look depressed. And when they see you, they just look mad. All it takes is a smile and a wave. I don’t care if they roll the window down or not. Just smile and wave. Life’s too short and people need to smile more. They just look so miserable. And I wish more people would take the paper.
What’s in the paper for people?
I think they need to know more about homelessness and how people progress from sleeping under a bridge, a tree or a bush to how they’ve gotten out. Because the newspaper has helped them get a place to live whether it be a trailer or a motel room at least they aren’t out in the elements.
If it wasn’t for this paper, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things that I can do. Even if I get a little help from social security—but not everybody gets that. My social security pays my bills, but if I have any extra things I need to do (like a car repair) if it wasn’t for The Contributor, I couldn’t do it.
What else do people need to understand?
I’m self employed. People don’t understand that. I just want people to understand that we’re not out there for our health or to grab money, we’re out there to make ourself dignified. We're trying to improve ourselves. Instead of always being depressed about not being able to do anything, this allows us to do things.
Some people come up and say, “You shouldn’t be out in this heat or this cold.” They don’t understand that we have to be. For me to maintain living where I’m living, I do have to go out and sell these. It’s all I wish for people to understand, but a lot of time they don’t.
Can we talk a little about your experience being homeless and your transition to housing?
I had two jobs, two cars, a house and a wife, and I lost it all when the economy went down. I had one job for almost ten years. I started out at $7 an hour and it took me 10 years to get up to $10.75 an hour—I got a quarter raise a year. But then they started cutting back all of us older employees because we were making more money than they wanted to spend.
I did not like being homeless, and I could not understand it. I used to not make fun of homeless people, but I used to have the same thought, why can’t they just get a job. I never did drugs, but I did start drinking more because that’s what everyone else was doing.
If you don’t have an address, people won’t hire you. I can give you a tree and tell you what kind it is. Or a bush. That’s how I first got my food stamps. They asked for my address, and I said, “What bush do you want me to tell you?” I told them I was sleeping outside so they went ahead and gave me my food stamps and I was able with that to sell them, get money saved up so I could buy a vehicle and stay in that.
Then I stayed in a motel for a while and mow I’ve been in a trailer for seven years.
How’d you find The Contributor?
I was flying a sign in 100 Oaks, right up from Home Depot and I remember she had long, blonde hair and she said, “You need to try The Contributor.” So, I started going to all of these free meals, and that’s where I met my roommate and he started talking to me about selling the paper because he’s an old vendor. And I came and got started.
What kind of work were you doing before you became homeless?
Grocery store and flower shop.
What’s your favorite flower?
Calla lilies. They’re harder to work with but they are beautiful. You can do a lot of things with them.