Vendors of The Contributor in Murfreesboro recently had to pause selling the paper because of a problematic city ordinance that led to police prohibiting paper sales. While The Contributor hopes to soon resume sales there, for now the interruption means 10 Murfreesboro vendors experiencing poverty are unable to earn an income.
Jerry is one of those vendors who can no longer sell the paper due to the city’s ruling. He is currently sleeping in his car while undergoing chemotherapy for stage four lung cancer.
“I was elated (to sell The Contributor). I can’t work a job because of cancer, COPD and being on oxygen,” Jerry said. “It gives me gas money, food money and money for medicines to continue with my treatment.
“I’m sad it’s not here.”
Jerry came to The Contributor in 2011 after learning about the nonprofit from another vendor.
“Back then you had to come in and sign up for it, and get the date to get an interview and train. Not having any money, it was hard to get to Nashville and back,” he said, then added, “The selling it? That was the easy part.”
Growing up, Jerry split time bouncing back and forth between his mother and father in Murfreesboro and Southern California. He explained that he got caught up in the drug and alcohol scene in California before spending six years in the penitentiary.
“After that I scraped myself out,” he said. Jerry then spent time going from job to job – just looking to make enough money to survive.
“Most jobs I’ve had, I’ve gone up into management, but my education only lets me go so far. After five years, I’d get laid off from a job. It’d take a year to find another good job. The older you get, the harder it is to find (a job),” he said. Then, his health began to deteriorate and it became more difficult for him to work a full-time job. Without consistent work, he has been experiencing homelessness on-and-off for 10 years.
Jerry received his cancer diagnosis in December, and since then has had multiple stays in the hospital due to lung infections following chemotherapy sessions. He receives some money from disability, but his medications – not including chemotherapy – total $340 a month.
“I take it one day at a time. That’s why it was so hard when we stopped selling The Contributor here because it was my income to survive on,” he explained. Before The Contributor expanded to Murfreesboro last fall, Jerry would drive to Nashville to purchase papers from the organization’s downtown office.
He said, “If my health would let me get to Nashville, I would. (And) if I had money, but I don’t see it happening.”
Jerry hopes The Contributor will be able to resume its sales in Murfreesboro so he can get back to his favorite part of selling: meeting his customers. “Everybody’s a friend to me,” he said. “I wave at everybody and I tell them to have a blessed day.
He shared one of his favorite memories: “I had an elderly lady who stopped and bought one. I told her to 'have a blessed day' and she started crying. We prayed together and she drove off and I’ve never seen her since. That was the highlight of selling the paper.”