Marvin Gnad, who was recently elected vendor representative, can be found selling Real Change at First and Virginia. Often, he's got a joke for his customers.
"It doesn't cost a single penny to smile," he likes to say. "I guarantee, just try it and it will make you feel better."
Marvin was born and raised in Ellis, Kan., which he remembers being "flatter than a pancake. You could see a storm coming a day and a half ahead of time."
He moved to Seattle eight years ago, but was unable to get housing. For about seven years, three of which he was on the Plymouth Housing waitlist, Marvin lived on the streets, he said.
He was struggling to pay his child support, and selling Real Change helped.
"I had three sons to take care of," he said. "Excuses don't feed and clothe them."
Marvin got into housing a year ago, but his health has failed. He's been diagnosed with different kinds of cancer including lung, pancreatic and Stage 3 skin cancer.
Even after his health started to deteriorate, Marvin continued to sell Real Change. "I am stuck together by spit and wire," he said.
Sometimes, even that's not enough. Marvin was forced to take three months off to undergo radiation treatment for lung cancer.
"It could be worse," he said. "No matter what you go through, it could be worse."
On Fri., Nov. 4, Marvin will turn 50 years old. He considers it a victory.
"I have been fighting [cancer] for five years. Nobody ever told me that I was going to make 50. I'll be damned, I have a couple of days until my birthday, and I am going to make it."
Marvin believes selling Real Change helped him get to the half-century mark. It has given him something to do, he said, a chance to earn some money and respect.
"It's a job," Marvin said of selling the paper. "If you treat it like a real job then the customers will treat it as a real job."