Spare Change News
Michael Shorey was born in New York, but moved to Salem, Mass. with his adoptive parents, who then decided to move to York, Maine, when he was 11.
He was one of six adopted siblings and had an idyllic childhood. He worked at a restaurant in Kittery, Maine for 12 years before he decided to move to Harvard Square when he was in his early 30s.
Unfortunately, this was the beginning of a rocky portion of Michael’s life.
His roommate eventually kicked him out in the middle of January. This marked the start of his homelessness, which lasted all of five years. Panhandling in front of CVS was his only income.
After a year or so of panhandling, a vendor for Spare Change News saw him and encouraged him to come sell the paper. After some slight coaxing, he agreed, and was soon making good, honest money instead of having to panhandle and deal with the glares and rejection of others.
Finally, getting a grip on his life, Michael began selling lots of papers, sometimes 100 per day. Spare Change once recognized him for selling 14,000 copies in a year.
As he began putting his life back together, he eventually sought help from a health counselor and got off the street. He says he never would have thought, growing up, that being homeless would happen to him.
He says he always had money and a job. He was the only homeless one in his family, but they supported him and his efforts to change his life around. He wants people to understand that even though a person might not look homeless at a glance, it does not mean they are not homeless.
Even though Michael is fortunate enough to have found housing, he still considers himself disadvantaged because he must contend with life’s many struggles. He says, “People shouldn’t judge. Sometimes, people come up to me and say, ‘Your sneakers are nicer than mine,’ and I think to myself, ‘I got these on sale, am I not supposed to have anything?’”
He feels that people think homeless people are not supposed to have any material things. But sneakers are a necessity, just like a winter jacket, which Michael has also been told is “too nice” for him to be homeless. He considers himself lucky enough to be able to have these things and he has worked hard to get his life back, but he says in no way does it mean that he has money to buy extravagant things, just necessities.
After all, he’s out walking the streets in the cold selling papers to his loyal customers who wait for the paper to come out every two weeks. After Michael pays his portion of the rent, the leftover money goes towards bills and to take care of his beloved dog, with not much left for him to live off of.
Aside from Spare Change, Michael also works for the Salvation Army ringing the bell during the winter season. He raised about $8,000 for the Salvation Army last year. He says wintertime is a busy time for the vendors, but enjoys being a part of the Salvation Army. He says the winter is the best because in the summer, many of his customers are away and visitors don’t buy the paper or know about Spare Change News. It’s mostly his local people that buy the paper and are his loyal returning customers.
Michael has now been a vendor for 14 years and thinks it’s about time the price of the paper went up for the vendors and customers, because he wants Spare Change to be able to keep going. He thinks that raising the price of the paper by a small increment would benefit Spare Change News. Michael would like to find a job where he wouldn’t have to be on SSI and could make enough money to entirely support himself. At age 46, he’s thinking about going to Mass. Rehab in hopes that he can attend nursing school.
Michael wants people to know that he wouldn’t know what to do without Spare Change News. It helps a lot of people and he likes being a part of the organization. It’s helped him change his life and it’s changed the lives of other vendors, too. It’s helped him pay some of his bills, and he wants the paper to prosper. Michael currently lives in Lynn and commutes to Harvard Square to sell his papers. He’s had housing for 12 years and currently resides in Lynn with his long-time partner and their dog.
So if you’re in Harvard Square, keep an eye out for Michael Shorey. Feel free to stop and talk to him, or just buy your copy of Spare Change News.
Larissa Butrimowicz writes for Spare Change News.