Nick Maxwell is working to end homelessness. Not just for himself, but for everybody.
“A lot of people want to sweep it under the carpet,” he said “They feel it’s not their problem. Homelessness is very serious and people are dying out there because they’re homeless. There’s a lot of people who are fighting for low-income housing. But there’s also the other side of the coin where you have corporations that don’t give a damn. They want to spend money on more high rises and housing for rich people. It’s a travesty. Especially in one of the richest cities in the United States.”
Nick is one of the newest members of the Real Change Board of Directors. He recently completed an advocacy internship at Real Change. In that role, Nick helped organize a shoe drive and has instructed other vendors to get their customers to sign an online petition asking King County Executive Dow Constantine to fund more emergency shelter for homeless people and take steps to reduce the number of people sleeping outside.
Nick sees Real Change as his future. He’d like a staff position at the organization, working to bring issues facing low-income and homeless people to the state legislature.
“I can make a difference and make people start listening,” he said.
Nick traces his ideals about social justice back to the 1960s, including the classic rock music he loves.
“That music soothes me,” Nick said. “It brings back memories. I’m 55 years old; I got to live a little bit of the ’60s and ’70s. Every time I listen to that music, it brings back memories of the things that I was doing. That music told a story. It told people what was going on with the Vietnam War and the stuff that was going on in the South.”
Nick grew up in the South Bronx; his mother, from Puerto Rico, was a single parent.
“I learned a lot, growing up on the streets, seeing the homelessness. I never thought I’d be in that position, but I am.”
He got started selling Real Change after a vendor told him the paper helps homeless and formerly homeless people get back on their feet. Nick didn’t know if he could really take standing on the street all day selling the paper, but that turned out not to be a problem.
Nick sells Real Change daily from 9 a.m. until 5:30 or 6 p.m. outside of Bartell Drugs on Fourth Avenue near the Central Library and enjoys interacting with his customers.
“We’re friends,” he said. “We talk about everything that’s going on in life, how holidays were, about families. If they have a problem I might give them some advice.”
He’s proud of the newspaper.
“It tells the truth; it’s innovative; it talks about the real issues,” Nick said. “If I didn’t believe in this paper, I wouldn’t sell it.”