"I started drinking at about age 14," Greg tells me. "I've lost a lot of good jobs because of it."
He's not alone: both his parents lived with alcoholism. But they were able to hold down regular jobs. His dad: an electrical engineer. His mom: a registered nurse. A child of what he describes as a "solidly middle-class and conservative" family from the Northwest, Greg earned a B.A. in Business and held a few well-paying jobs in his younger days, working at such places as the Seattle Veterans Affairs Hospital, Boeing, and the Kent School District.
But drinking and increasing mental health problems made it very difficult for Greg to be successful. "I worked really hard, but [drinking and mental illness] got to me," he says. "I haven't worked a regular job in a number of years."
Achieving stability hasn't been easy. Or seamless: Greg's been homeless on and off for several years, sleeping everywhere from dumpsters to doorways to emergency shelters, and now, finally, transitional housing. "I basically just wandered the streets," Greg tells me of his experience. "[When you're homeless], you have no place to go, no place to be."
Yet despite these challenges, Greg has persevered. In just over a year he has gained the respect and support of regular Real Change buyers at the University District Whole Foods, and has successfully stayed clean and sober for 2 years.
Selling Real Change "helps me get out of my head," he explains, "It gives me something to look forward to."
And to his customers: "I'd like to say that I really appreciate their help and their kindness," Greg says. "And hopefully one of these days I'll be on the other end of the deal where I'll be the one giving out the dollar."