NEOCH and the Paper Changed My Life for the Better

by Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

     It was the late 90’s and I had made the decision to sell the Homeless Grapevine out of desperation, because I needed money. Going to the NEOCH office was hard for me to do. I was only 20 years old and I had experienced two decades of abuse. After experiencing every form of abuse, meeting new people was not something that made me feel comfortable. I wasn't sure if I would be capable of selling the paper because at that point in my life I felt like a failure. I struggled through high school and had gone to college but dropped out because I found out I had a learning disability and attention problems that caused me to struggle academically. I had tried many temp jobs and had received some DNR’s (do not return) notes because I couldn't work fast enough or because I made mistakes. I struggled with getting and keeping jobs because it was hard for me to hold my head up high and sell myself to a potential employer. When I did have short lived jobs I didn't get along well with my coworkers because they thought I was weird. When I tried to interact with my coworkers they usually rejected me or said I was annoying or harassing them.

 I went to the NEOCH office which was on West 25th at the time. I walked down the hallway but as I got to the NEOCH office my body became paralyzed with fear. All I could do was stand there. As I stood there the criticizing words of the woman who gave birth to me played over and over in my head. Then I had flashbacks of my previous failures and of people treating me bad and I asked myself if I was ready for this. I was worried that the NEOCH staff wouldn't like me. I was worried that I wouldn't get hired as a vendor. I worried that I would mess up during my training. I worried that the other vendors wouldn’t like me if they got to know me. Even though I wanted to turn around and run out the building, I didn't. I told myself I would try as hard as I could and sell papers until I was fired.

I walked into the NEOCH office and met Brian Davis and the NEOCH staff. They all seemed nice enough so I no longer felt anxiety. I filled out my vendor's contract, took my training and received my 10 free papers. To my surprise I had succeeded at something. I left the NEOCH office feeling a sense of accomplishment. After selling the paper for a while I was asked to make a contribution to the paper. I believed I was too stupid to write an article so I just submitted artwork to the paper because I felt drawing was the only thing I could do right. It wasn't until much later I gain enough confidence to write.

I sold the paper off and on from the late 90’s to 2005. Each time I left the paper I would see Brian somewhere out in the community and he would convince me to come back to the paper. Selling the paper was a good thing for me because over the years it has taught me many things and has helped me to grow as a person. Being around my fellow vendors, the NEOCH staff and Brian made me feel a sense of belonging in my isolated world. For most of my life I was around people who had jobs and a close relationship with others. Not having a safe place to live, not having a stable job and not having a close relationship with people had me feeling empty and inferior. Interacting with others who was just as broken as I was, people who didn’t have their life together and people who were trained to deal with all types of people filled an empty void I had.

No one tried to change me into what they felt I should be and no one tried to force me to fit in with what they believed was normal. No one judged me by my past or by my mistakes or limitations or by what I didn't have or couldn't do. At NEOCH I was treated like a valuable human being who was worthy of respect. When I was around my fellow vendors, the NEOCH staff and Brian, I felt normal. As I watched my fellow vendors make mistakes, I learned that mistakes are normal and acceptable. As I watched Brian give people chances after they made mistakes it made me see that mistakes can be excusable and not held against you.

Selling the paper put me out in society and helped me build social skills. It forced me to get out there and talk to all types of people which was hard for me to do at first. Selling the paper taught me how to manage money. With help from Brian, the NEOCH staff and my fellow vendors I learned to have confidence in myself and my abilities and they taught me that I had value even if successful society couldn't see it.

  The Homeless Grapevine folded and the Cleveland Street Chronicle formed. A couple of vendors convinced me to come back and sell the paper. I didn't really want to come back because I was into my own things. I was selling beaded jewelry and body oils. In May 2011, I came back to the paper as a more confident and dedicated vendor. Over the years Brian Davis has helped me to see the paper for more than just an income opportunity. He helped me see the paper for what it really is a voice for the homeless, poor and low-income. These are groups of people wealthier people don’t understand or don’t want to listen to. Now instead of just selling the paper to earn extra money, I take pride in writing informative articles for people to read. I take pride in taking the time to talk to people about the paper. I enjoy being a part of the paper's growth and success.

      If I had not chosen to walk into the NEOCH office at the age of 20, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without selling the paper first, I would have never gotten the courage to become an entrepreneur. Thanks to NEOCH’s support in my life I am able to buy a Zone 1 & Zone 3 permit each year and feel confident enough to get out into society and sell the necklaces that I make without anxiety. Thanks to the Homeless Grapevine and the Cleveland Street Chronicle, I now have an interest in writing and is currently working on manuscripts for books I hope to get published one day