Ivy Irving never thought her husband would die before her. “I smoked. He didn’t smoke. He was pretty healthy. He died from the blood pressure being too high.”
They were living on disability, “but when he died they took it away and gave me a widow’s check until I’m 66.”
“I never even heard of Real Change until about 7 years ago. I wasn’t buying the paper at first. My husband was because he liked the articles. Then I started reading it.”
After her husband’s death, their vendor suggested she might like selling Real Change.
“Oh, no, I don’t think I could.”
“Just try it,” he said.
“I went to orientation; they gave me 10 papers. I didn’t think I could sell them all.” Her vendor mentor suggested she try selling at Leschi Market. Gradually, she built up a customer base.
She’d had to move from her apartment. It was in subsidized housing, based on income, so money wasn’t the problem. But there was gang activity in the building; she was scared now that she was living alone. Her landlord, a nonprofit, said there was nothing it could do.
Someone at Seattle Housing Authority said they could get her into another apartment in 90 days. Ivy thought she could stay with her sister in West Seattle for that long. So she gave notice and left her home of 30 years. But “it was a nightmare” living with her sister. And the 90 days turned out to be a couple of years. Ivy ended up homeless.
In March, Ivy finally got an apartment. She’d long ago given away her furniture. That’s when her customers came through. One of them, a real estate agent, paid for delivery of a bed, sofa, chair and desk, furniture that had been used for showing houses. Another customer bought her two full sets of bedding. A third gave her the pick of some bath towels and bath rugs she had just bought.
“I have about eight customers that are really good to me.”
Ivy has lived in Seattle all her life. Her new apartment is a few blocks from her childhood home and from the apartment where she and her husband lived. She has family here. She particularly likes to cook and bake for her daughter and her two kids.
“I got an 11-year-old grandson that loves me to bake. My daughter doesn’t like to cook, so I’ll cook and they’ll come and get dinner.”
Now that she has an apartment, her grandson likes to stay with her to get a break from his new little sister.
Ivy intends to keep selling Real Change at least until she can get her husband’s Social Security.
“It’s really crazy. I don’t make enough [on disability] to live on. If it wasn’t for [subsidized] housing, a lot of us would be in trouble. Because the rents in Seattle, they’re so high.”