Message for West Seattleites from Real Change: Who’s authorized, and who’s not

Real Change asked us to publish an open letter of sorts, thanking you for your support – and asking that you be sure to support only authorized vendors of their award-winning publication. It’s a West Seattle-specific message, including descriptions of people they say are selling without authorization – which is only verified via a badge like this:

Thank You for Your Support, West Seattle
From Real Change:

Every day, Real Change offers opportunity, dignity, and a sense of community to 350 homeless or low-income vendors that sell Real Change News. For over 18 years, we have worked hard to support our vendors and respond to community concerns.

Vendors must follow a Code of Conduct if they wish to sell our newspaper. Vendors who are authorized to sell the newspaper wear a color-coded identification badge. If someone is selling the newspaper without a current badge, they may not be an authorized vendor and did not receive papers from our organization.

We know that there are a few people in West Seattle who are not authorized to sell our newspaper but have sometimes illegitimately acquired papers outside our office. They aggressively panhandle and actively disrespect community members, business owners, and Real Change vendors.

Two individuals in particular have been especially aggressive and threatening, and are not authorized to sell our newspaper. One is an African American male, approximately 5’3” tall, with light brown/green eyes and braids/dreadlocks. The other is an African American female, approximately 5’9” tall, with a slender build and wearing glasses. They have been active at West Seattle businesses such as Safeway at Jefferson Square, Safeway on California Ave., Thriftway, the Post Office, QFC at Alaska and 42nd, Easy Street Records, Metropolitan Market, and Westwood Village.

Here’s how you can continue to help:

· Purchase the paper from badged vendors only. Please only
purchase the paper from vendors displaying a Real Change badge with
the current year printed on it. If a vendor is not wearing a badge,
please ask to see one. The 2013 badge will be orange.

· Support your badged vendors. Please continue to support authorized Real Change vendors and let them know their presence is appreciated. They appreciate and deserve your support!

· Notify Law Enforcement. Do not hesitate to contact law enforcement if there are individuals engaging in criminal activity in your community.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Vendor Services Program Manager Tara Moss at (206) 441-3247 ext. 204. Real Change’s Field Organizer, Neal Lampi, will also be visiting West Seattle businesses frequently. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Moss and Lampi explained Real Change to the Junction Neighborhood Organization in 2010 (WSB coverage here), two months after a police officer’s candid briefing at JuNO included harsh words about RC (WSB coverage here). The “fake vendors” problem also was brought up to Mayor McGinn last year during his visit to a West Seattle Chamber of Commerce-sponsored lunch meeting (WSB coverage here).

55 Replies to "Message for West Seattleites from Real Change: Who's authorized, and who's not"

  • Westgirl December 19, 2012 (1:58 pm)

    The guy they mentioned cracks me up…everyday is a different excuse on why he needs my money. His “wife” (I believe) is very rude and always tries to guilt trip me. Never works!

  • Bsmomma December 19, 2012 (2:07 pm)

    I am so glad someone said something! I thought the lady at the mail boxes was inappropriate. Not only the location but the rude racist comments when I did not purchase a paper. I know exactly who the other guy is as well! The two of them (plus a couple sketchy people) will rondevoux over by the liquor store/Petco.

  • Cait December 19, 2012 (2:09 pm)

    Wow… I know exactly who they are. They guy followed me through Target one time. Weird.

  • Tiffany December 19, 2012 (2:11 pm)

    The two mentioned above are husband and wife. I am often on the bus with them. He looks like Smokey Robinson and is quite friendly. His wife, not so friendly. They both use the term “donation”. One day I asked what I would be “donating to” and she just replied with, “a good cause”. They have a daughter in college and do rather well for themselves. But they tell lies upon lies to sell their papers. I have never once seen them with a badge on. Please do not buy papers from these two!

  • Kravitz December 19, 2012 (2:19 pm)

    Great descriptions of the two fake vendors. I believe they may be a couple – at least the woman has mentioned that he is her boyfriend on occasion. I’d like to know how these two are getting their hands on these papers in the first place? Are they stealing them from other legit vendors? Is there anything that can be done about the fake vendors (other than residents NOT buying their papers) so that the legitimate ones can have a better opportunity of selling their product?

  • Bsmomma December 19, 2012 (2:26 pm)

    I hope they weren’t putting there daughter through college with the money. That would be very sad for her.

  • Rebecca December 19, 2012 (2:35 pm)

    I just want to add that Real Change is a great organization. They are incredibly prompt in addressing community concerns and take this all very seriously. They are a wonderful paper and I really appreciate how well they advocate for their true vendors and being good neighbors!

  • StephenHJ December 19, 2012 (2:36 pm)

    If I understand it correctly, the fake vendors have stolen the papers. That means that they have committed a crime. If you see them, it is appropriate to notify the police of their location and activity.

    WSB – is this not correct?

  • Jtk December 19, 2012 (2:37 pm)

    I see the man all the time… he makes me want to munch him in the neck… ;) (I joke of course)……

  • AN December 19, 2012 (2:41 pm)

    The woman used to be down by the petco entrance and if you were going in she would say “I also take gifts if you are going into the liquor store”
    She does get nasty with you when you keep walking. The guy mentioned used to invade my space and try touching me while walking along side me. I told him to back off one time and now he never comes near me.

  • JoB December 19, 2012 (2:49 pm)

    Ask to see a badge every time you buy a real change newspaper… even if you know your vendor.

    if they are standing at the entrance to a store, report them to the management.. they will call someone to move them along.

    these two are notorious, but they are not alone

  • Stephanie December 19, 2012 (3:03 pm)

    Again, I also know exactly who they are. The woman used to sit outside of the old State Liquor store. It always annoyed me with her soliciting, she is rude. I know they are “together”, I have seen them together all the time. I find it hard to believe that they are doing “quite well for themselves”, if they are….why are they being obnoxious? The gentleman creeps me out!! I cannot stand after working a full day, having to stop by the store to pick up something really quick, and you get hit up by a solicitor walking in, and then again on the way back out….sure would be nice if Safeway made a policy of not allowing solicitors on their property.

  • AN December 19, 2012 (3:17 pm)

    Stephanie, they do not stand on Safeway’s property they stand on the sidewalk. Safeway does have a no soliciting sign outside the doors but they can’t control the sidewalk 5 feet away. I know what you mean, I turn the other way if they are there

  • Tara Moss December 19, 2012 (3:34 pm)

    First off, thanks to the people who are supporting our authorized vendors. We believe the unauthorized vendors take papers from the trash or seek out our more vulnerable vendors and pressure them into supplying them papers.

    It is an unfortunate situation. So you know, we take serious disciplinary action with any vendor that supplies papers to unauthorized vendors. We hope that if we remove the demand they will stop pretending to be Real Change vendors and will leave the neighborhood.

    Please call the police if they are engaging in criminal activity. Please call the office if you notice another vendor supplying papers to them. Finally, you are always encouraged to call the office if there is an issue with an authorized Real Change vendor.

    On a happier note, you are always welcome to call the office if you want to nominate a vendor you like for the vendor profile (or you can just include it in the comments here) Thanks again for all your support. I know the vendors especially appreciate it during the holiday season.

    -Tara Moss, Real Change Program Manager (and West Seattle Resident)

  • Mike December 19, 2012 (3:35 pm)

    I typically buy them a drink and a sandwich rather than give them cash. I still don’t trust people enough to just give them cash.

  • islewrite December 19, 2012 (3:36 pm)

    Please DO keep buying from the short African-American male at the Metro who has bad eyesight and a badge. He is a sweetheart. And avoid the white 20-something with dreds that I saw there a couple of weeks ago. I badge-challenged him and in a stoneresque way he said, “Oh wait…I can look up my badge on my cell” and then started punching buttons. I just said, “later dude.” I think the staff chase him off when they see him.

  • Jamie December 19, 2012 (3:41 pm)

    Yes,Why isnt real change not doing anything about it?? Or why arnt they finding out whos giving them the papers and how are those guys “paying” for them? Because you dont always have to pay people with money! Sad but the truth. These people arnt well off and if they whare why does the lady wear broken glasses??? Im just sayin. They are pretty much stealing from real change. Because they are takeing the people away from the real sellers.

  • me December 19, 2012 (3:47 pm)

    Stephanie, would the banning of solicitors be extended to those of the bell ringing ilk? They sure annoy me when I am going in and coming out. see? slippery slope

  • Paul December 19, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    At what point does panhandling like this become enough of a public nuisance to allow police or property owners to force these people to move on? I’ve called the Real Change office in the past about the woman mentioned, and they did seem concerned – but over a year later she’s still doing the same thing in the same locations. The young couple with the dog that panhandle outside the Admiral Safeway have been there since the new store opened – begging seems to be their occupation. Seem harmless, but after a year + of the same game – it’ clearly a chosen lifestyle, and not an immediate need.

  • Flickertail December 19, 2012 (4:07 pm)

    Indeed. It is kind of a bummer that we have to put up with riff-raff while shopping. And, riff-raff is what they are. We called them bums back in the fifties…

  • lightreading December 19, 2012 (4:13 pm)

    Yes I also am familiar with them. I have always bought the Real Change from him for several years. He told me last year that he had cancer and was going through chemo and then I didn’t see again until the last 6 months. Now he doesn’t appear to be selling anything just asking for help.

  • XRoadsAmy December 19, 2012 (4:17 pm)

    I think Jtk must be a vampire – LOL! :)

  • Mel December 19, 2012 (4:32 pm)

    Shaking my head at how up in arms some of these commenters seem to be over this.
    It’s wrong, yes. Illegal, probably. Real Change should be policing its newspaper better, yes. But it ain’t the end of the world.
    And no one selling a small number of newspapers at $1 a pop is putting their daughter through college with the money, whether legally or not. Use your common sense.

  • Mayor of West Seattle December 19, 2012 (4:56 pm)

    Can the SPD “trespass” offenders such as these from the property where they are harrassing people? That way they would be banned for a year I believe.

    My philosophy is to donate to legitimate, reputable charities, such as St Martin de Porres or the West Seattle Food Bank.

  • Flickertail December 19, 2012 (5:10 pm)

    In Yakima, just west of the Northern Pacific tracks, adjacent to the old NP roundhouse, there is a place called “Bum’s Canyon”. Kindly move there, Real Change vendors…and you Real Change copycat riff-raff…I assure you, you will feel right at home.

  • GenHillOne December 19, 2012 (5:50 pm)

    I really don’t appreciate being accosted at the drive-thru mailbox by this woman. You’d think, as a government office, the Post Office could encourage her to move along.

  • Amazed December 19, 2012 (5:50 pm)

    Man…I have given that guy money before, never the gal though. I never thought of asking for a badge. I’m too nice for my own good.

  • Kim December 19, 2012 (5:57 pm)

    Jeez people. Homeless is homeless. Sorry they are such a nuisance to you since they are a product of their environment. Do your part to help change the environment or stop complaining. Oh, and Merry Christmas. I am sure some of the “riff raff” will freeze to death this winter so to not disrupt your shopping. I am absolutely disgusted by these comments. I firmly believe that the only good deeds some of you do are purely for yourself – if you have this kind of energy (to inform the police and such). My God, you have no idea what it is like to be poor or homeless. From these comments you are completely disconnected.

  • Josh December 19, 2012 (6:00 pm)

    I fell for it once at Safeway and didn’t even get a newspaper because he “only had one.” Never again.

  • ws born & bred December 19, 2012 (6:04 pm)

    I am a supporter of Real Change and find the vendor fraud disappointing. I have encountered the man described above before on California Ave. I buy Real Change from the same vendor each week but not in West Seattle. A sweet older man that always stands on the same corner and presses the crosswalk button for passers by.

  • Lola P December 19, 2012 (6:05 pm)

    And those little girls in the green outfits. Where *do* they get those addictive cookies. What’s *really* in them. Little beggers get on my nerves. Don’t they have *parents* to pay for their habits?!?

    {For those of you whose lives are way too self-centered… that was satire.}

  • CandrewB December 19, 2012 (6:42 pm)

    Kim, “since they are a product of their environment.” Key words: their environment. “Do your part to help change the (their) environment” What would you have us do? Force them at gunpoint to stop drinking? Because it sounds like every other ship has sailed?

  • Paul December 19, 2012 (7:28 pm)

    There’s a difference between helping and enabling. Best rule is to never give to individuals, but donate to the many many organizations that help them. Individuals will give in to their addictions and bad choices. Organizations can use economies of scale to support more people for less $$. I don’t support Real Change, because it doesn’t seem to bring real change to people. If it did, you wouldn’t see the same people selling it outside the same grocery year after year.

  • Kim December 19, 2012 (7:32 pm)

    CandrewB/ – yes, forcing ‘them’ (you know…’those’ people) at gunpoint is the only way. Apparently the only “legitimate” homeless sell papers. I am just saying from these comments, what you are actually outraged about is unbelievable. Let’s not tackle the issue why people need to sell papers in the first place! And I even bet 80% of you Real Change do-gooders either don’t read them or toss in the garbage (ahem ‘recycling’). Don’t get me wrong – I buy them – often – multiples of the same one from different nice people and then provide them my the office. However, if I come across one that I know isn’t legitimate? Like the black woman in the public parking lot that looks completely defeated and says simply, “I just need enough to get a room tonight.”, I will buy her paper. And why is it? Because I know, that no matter how bad my life is (and it is quite bad), I know theirs, for whatever reason (I don’t care), is way way worse. I do have awarm place to stay. I am not physically and mentally hooked on drugs. And if people are willing to throw 4 bucks away on a crappy coffee from Starbucks, I find this hysteria over providing one buck to someone begging, “legitimate” or otherwise, a sad state of affairs. If someone is harassing you, call the police – but from the sounds of it above, needy are not legitimate unless peddling a paper. If you find my opinion disagreeable, it wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Krs December 19, 2012 (7:34 pm)

    I know exactly who these two people are. The little guy even wears a fake cast sometimes on his foot. I’ve seen him in QFC buying a basket full of groceries and beer, so he’s got money coming in. When I asked him his name one time, he told me I’d have to pay him to find out. Uhm, no thanks. Avoid giving them money for any reason.

  • Kim December 19, 2012 (7:48 pm)

    @Paul – problem is, people don’t give. Most people don’t support. People like to talk about support, but it usually is along the lines of NPR and KEXP. Seriously. Some of these people survive off of Real Change. Some Real Change vendors will never be able to get a real job. You are being unrealistic – even able bodied people that have lost their jobs can’t find work! I used to talk to a popular vendor at Seward Park PCC, who has since passed away, and he was always telling me about potential job he might get and then he would never end up getting it. He was so well liked that he got a little plaque at the store in the cement. If that guys didn’t deserve a buck, Paul, I don’t know who would. My last post. Thanks for allowing my opinion.

  • Kathi December 19, 2012 (7:51 pm)

    I am so thankful that these two are being dealt with… I have avoided stores that they frequent because of their harassment. I’ve been followed into Safeway and tugged at by shorty as well as Deb. they are loud and obnoxious. The actual “real change” vendors are polite and appropriate always ending a transaction with thank you and appreciation. I appreciate your interest in this issue.

  • J December 19, 2012 (8:29 pm)

    I like the theory of “Real Change”, but I must say I’ve become skeptical over the years, failing to see any apparent “real” change. And when I see the RC vendor smoking, I decide I really don’t want to help support that habit. I donate more to organizations that help the homeless, food banks, etc., instead. I like the idea of homeless people creating their own newspaper; I daresay the skills involved in that pay off–but I don’t consider panhandling a skill worth developing.

  • Chris W December 19, 2012 (8:47 pm)

    I watched a Real Change vendor in Lake City pull herself up into gainful employment. She was so excited to eventually get a job that allowed her a chance to get off the streets (and a church nearby provided housing until she got to that point.) She worked hard and succeeded because Real Change, and the paper’s customers, worked for her. I’ll always be a fan of RC. And now I will look for the badges…

  • Chuck and Sally's Van man December 19, 2012 (8:48 pm)

    Grrrr. Without knowing the woman at the post office was a fake, I just felt something was off. So aggressive, in part just by her proximity to the drop-off box. I mean, why doesn’t she just hang outside a public restroom for that matter? I never “donated,” but if I see her again I’m sure to give her my opinion of her practices. I like the real RC vendors and donate often.

  • Archie Bunker December 19, 2012 (9:11 pm)

    I have been homeless, and I am poor.
    I also believe these people are a pain in the behind, and need to move on, or become employed.
    Since you seem to enjoy them so much, invite them into your home. Just keep them away from my family.

  • Westgirl December 19, 2012 (9:27 pm)

    OT- Does anyone know what happened to the older lady selling Real Change in front of QFC on 42nd? She was there the past two summers and I haven’t seen her in months.

  • EmmyJane December 19, 2012 (9:31 pm)

    I instantly knew who this was going to be about. I stopped giving to them when I ended up in the middle of a screaming match between the two of them… Something about abuse. Anyways I’ve been very uncomfortable since but their aggressiveness makes it hard to advert my eyes and slip past them.

  • EdSane December 20, 2012 (12:06 am)

    The best thing to do is avoid eye contact and keep moving if you have no intention of purchasing the paper. You’re only giving them an opening to make their pitch (however derogatory it may be)….As to contacting the police, they are entitled to speech (however much you may dislike it). It only becomes harrassment when they follow you after you have told them to stop. Now as to the comments regarding tresspassing. The property owner (or one in trusted with such rights) would need to contact the police to issue a notice of tresspass. Two problems with this. If they are being non-violent its low priority for the police. The second, they probably won’t stick around long enough anyway.

  • Ajax December 20, 2012 (4:32 am)

    I would rather deal with Real Change vendors outside local establishments than the out of control packs of kids inside these same establishments after school lets out. The Real Change people (even the non-legitimate ones) tend to have better manners.

  • Rotten Apple December 20, 2012 (5:24 am)

    I hope none of you goody do gooers here never need to stand on the sidewalk and ask strangers for money to survive.

  • CandrewB December 20, 2012 (5:40 am)

    I was talking about these two con artists Kim. Of course you had to knee-jerk into ALL homeless regardless of the circumstances which is pretty high and mighty of yourself. These two are sociopaths, subsisting on your guilt complex. By all means, take them in.

  • justme December 20, 2012 (7:17 am)

    Well, we all know this couple. They say they’re married and I’ve encountered them on the bus too. He’s horrible abusive to her and she use to sell Real Change behind the liquor store and ask for alcohol donations for him.

    One afternoon while my 14 year old son and I were walking our dog I decided to step into Bartell for a few things while he sat on the bench and waited with our dog. The man in the description above came up to him and tried to sell him weed. So there’s that going on with this couple as well. I wonder if Real Change knows this too.

  • Kayleigh December 20, 2012 (8:01 am)

    The Real Change vendor I regularly buy from (downtown) is in school, trying to better himself and someday do work that doesn’t involve standing in the freezing rain, being regularly robbed and beaten up, and living on very, very little money.
    Funny, vendors and panhandlers don’t mess with me for long (and I’m a petite white girl.) Get some boundaries, people. Learn to say firmly and respectfully, “No, thank you.” Walk away. Look like the adult you are supposed to be. Toughen up. This is a major American city, not Mayberry.

  • MAS December 20, 2012 (8:31 am)

    If the papers are stolen (no badge) buying them is buying stolen property. Since there is a clear mechanism for knowing if it’s stolen (presence of a badge) you can’t even really get away with the “I didn’t know it was stolen” excuse. (Which is generally not a legitimate defense anyway.) Buying from folks who have stolen or illegitimately acquired the papers is essentially supporting a criminal enterprise.

  • rico December 20, 2012 (8:38 am)

    As pointed out before, it is difficult to see any “real change” with respect to this program.

    Keep seeing the same folks downtown – year after year – no change at all. A few are quite charming, possibly intelligent and could likely get a job that actually involves a better purpose than simply asking people for their hard earned money.

    The few described above who sold real change and have made a better life for themselves, likely had sufficient motivation and skills to have done so without the real change program anyways.

    As to the actual content of the writing in real change, talk about an bad attitude, the implication in the few editions I have read are that “you owe us”

    In a typical week I get asked to buy real change at least 10 times downtown and several times at the neighborhood grocery store, getting tired of it.

  • WSB December 20, 2012 (8:40 am)

    Guess I didn’t finish this comment last night. Meant to say – if you read our past coverage, when the Real Change duo appeared at JuNO in 2010, they explained that some legitimate vendors are “bullied” by others into giving/selling them papers. At the time, the papers were described as sold to legitimate vendors for 35 cents, to be sold by the vendors for $1. Giving/selling papers to other than legitimate customers was described as a termination offense. Don’t know if their rules have since changed, though – TR

  • Setitstraight December 20, 2012 (11:03 am)

    Let’s keep it real west Seattle!!!
    I have seen upstanding west Seattlites graciously give money to an older real change man, only to have him walk around the corner
    Hide in the bushes or a building to smoke CRACK. This has happen more often than not.
    I just think to myself how foolish can you be?
    Self righteousness has a price = you are buying crack for people that refuse to work and would rather scam others. And they don’t care if they smoke it in front of your family, most the time you just smile while he is smoking your time away.

  • G December 20, 2012 (12:03 pm)

    Meh, people are a little too fragile about this. Use your common sense and trust your gut. There is a couple, a man and woman with a dog, who panhandle at the Admiral Safeway. He always has his forlorn “Iraq war” story handy, and that con smile if you ignore him.

    No one who is truly needy – or really wants to get on their feet – begs in front of the same place day after day, Real Change people excepted.

  • corneycornblat December 20, 2012 (2:29 pm)

    re: GenHillOne – I asked the guy inside of the Post Office about this. He had no idea it was going on and said to tell them when anyone is out front. He also said very loudly – It is a FEDERAL OFFENCE if anyone touches your mail, even if she says she will put it in the box for you at the drive thru. There are some really nice Real Change people, but yes, these 2 are a problem. They take the bus all the way here from Renton, I saw them at the bus stop outside the car wash. Is the word out that W. Seattle gives generously? It is sad they need money, but overall they are too agressive and are harassing people. Lastly, if you want to help them and not be a grinch just do like the other person said – food only – no cash. They are probably arguing because they bought some hooch and are wasted.

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