Melinda, a Contributor vendor of four years, was recently able to stop sleeping in a tent and move into permanent housing thanks to the help of her customers and local organizations. I sat down with the Nashville native to discuss this recent accomplishment:
What was the process like to find housing?
It was a really, really long process. It’s not an overnight thing. I worked with several different places, Metro Social Services, Park Center and Cedarstone. I had tried to get into housing three years ago, but I was denied because of the guy I was with. He had a felony on his record so both of us were denied. I wound up kicking him out after 21 years because he wouldn’t try to find work and I finally realized I didn’t need him. I refiled in November of 2015, got my voucher in April, and finally got my apartment this October.
Why do you think it took so long?
They hand out more vouchers than there is housing. And when they heard I was transferring out of a tent, they didn’t want to deal with me because I didn’t have a permanent address or five years of rental proof. But that’s why I needed the housing in the first place.
Was that the first time you had experienced homelessness?
No. I got married at 15. My mother signed for my siblings and me to get married at 15, and then I was homeless pretty soon after that.
What had you been doing before you found housing in Nashville?
When I first came back to Nashville after being away for a while, I didn’t even have a tent. I slept outside the police station because I figured it would be safer. Then I finally found a tent to use and up until now, that tent has been my house, even in the winters.
How does it feel to finally have housing?
I’ve only been in housing for two weeks and so far I love it. It’s not much bigger than my tent, but it’s life changing. I couldn’t sleep at all the first few nights because I wasn’t used to being inside. I couldn’t believe it. Turning the key to my apartment was the happiest I’ve ever been.
Will you keep selling The Contributor even though you’re now in housing?
Absolutely. I love selling The Contributor. I need to sell The Contributor because I need to make my own hours. I have really bad depression and so sometimes I can’t make it out of bed. That wouldn’t be OK if I had any other job. The Contributor is where I get all of my income. I live off what I make selling The Contributor. The vendors are nice and courteous, and the staff is great. I’m really thankful for The Contributor.
What do you think caused the depression?
Depression first hit really bad when I went to the doctor and found out I’m really sick. Turns out I’ve been really sick for a while. I got infected when I was young and stupid, but I just never knew it.
What advice would you give to others experiencing depression?
If you’re depressed, seek help. Right now I’ve been getting treated at Cedarstone Mental Health and it does help. Talking to my customers makes me feel better too.
Where do you sell The Contributor?
For the first three years I sold in the same spot on Interstate Drive and Woodland every day, but now I only sell there on Sundays and jump around on the other days.
Do you have regular customers?
Yes, I would like to give a special shout out to Erskin and Kelly. They’re the ones that pretty much furnished my apartment by taking donations through their church. They’re my friends, they pull over and talk to me. They don’t always buy a paper, but it’s always nice to talk to them. I tell anybody that comes up, I’ll just stand here and talk to you. I love talking to people.
What would you like to tell people who read The Contributor?
Thank y’all so much and please keep it up so I can stay in my apartment.