“I’ve always been intrigued by the blue jay. Very intelligent bird, and very acrobatic, very good at flight,” Joe Capozzi said. “It just is very sleek, he’s not oversized, he’s just a medium-size bird, pretty much owns the air he’s in at all times. That’s why I can appreciate the blue jay. Hard work and dedication pays off, ask a blue jay.”
Joe Capozzi was talking about his favorite bird, but he may as well have been talking about himself. With a genuineness and a passion that exudes from him in every word, Joe holds a staunch belief in the power of Real Change, especially in his own life. He hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and bounced around a bit before he settled in Seattle. As a teenager, he went from “rags to riches to rags again,” living with another family for a while, and then on his own again.
Joe found himself homeless after he lost his job and was living one paycheck away from the streets.
“I was doing in-home healthcare and the woman who I was working with and living in her home had passed away. I lived paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, no money in the bank account, literally zero dollars by day six, just a hope that I could get by day six to be paid on day seven. Well, when she passed away and lost the home, the bank took the home, I lost the home and was out in the cold. So that was me being like, bottom-middle class and coming out of Pittsburgh, PA, working just to survive, and if that wasn’t bad enough, coming to Seattle was even tougher because the cost of living’s so much higher.”
Having been homeless in Seattle for the past four years, Joe understands the gravity of being unsheltered and knows how undignified certain situations can be. He gets particularly frustrated when homeless people are ignored.
“Until you’ve hit rock bottom, or have walked a couple miles in the shoes that have no soles, then maybe you could place yourself in the soul behind those shoes.”
Despite any adversity that Joe has faced out on the streets or as a vendor, he always manages to turn his outlook toward the positive — even in stressful living situations.
“[Real Change has] given me my smile back, my authentic smile back. It’s given me dignity — dignity to be able to stand amongst every working-class citizen walking by me, and say, ‘At least I’m trying; at least I’m trying.’ Before I used to go out there with a piece of cardboard and just ask for a free handout. At the end of the day, it was still hard to sleep because I wasn’t dignified in the work I was doing.
“Four years later, I turned that piece of cardboard into the Real Change Newspaper, with many journalism awards that I brag about, that I promote. And I can see already, the four years I’ve been here, we’ve had an increase in readers, we’ve had an increase in vendors, and we’ve had an increase in the journalism awards. So I can say in the four years I’ve been here, not only have I changed, Real Change has changed, and we both move forward as a collective.”
Intelligent, owns the air he’s in at all times, and proving that hard work and dedication pays off, Joe Capozzi is surely appreciated in the Real Change collective.