No refined sugar, nonfat milk or froth. Not even coffee or tea. Just honey and water. Tim Buckley is a man of tradition and simplicity.
Being a man of tradition, it took Tim some time to become a vendor after hearing about Real Change.
“I became homeless in 2014. I had been seeing people with Real Change in Seattle. I always thought I was going to have to fill out additional forms. This form, this form, this form,” Tim goes on. Such is the case when trying to find work, housing and other forms of stability in the rapidly growing city that is Seattle.
Tim had been driving trucks for eight years, when he sustained a concussion and subsequent health problems prevented him from working. “There’s really no guidelines on how to be homeless and what you do have to do to be homeless,” Tim says as he reflects on the seemingly endless and false stigmas surrounding homelessness, including the common perception that an unemployed homeless person is “too lazy to work.”
“I would love to work. I have problems even standing sometimes. Sometimes I take breaks while I’m standing. I’ve got a torn Achilles tendon. I’ve got a knee replacement I’m not looking forward to. So, I’ve got some disabilities I’m dealing with, but I just try to do something positive to give me some sort of motivation at the same time. To keep my mind off of these things.”
Tim sells the paper in Bellingham. He happened upon the city of Bellingham soon after he became homeless. It was a huge transformation.
“People here are more community based. I just never really experienced a long- or even short-term community base in Seattle. I didn’t know that this was even possible.” Tim exudes positivity these days. “My thing is just to continue to stay healthy and involved. I just want to get more involved in the community.”
But it’s not all honey and water. As is the case with so many things, people can be judgmental. Even after transitioning from panhandling to selling Real Change, Tim has been belittled by people. It’s a very real part of selling the paper. Tim’s philosophy: Don’t feed into it.
“On the flip side, it’s been wonderful for me. It helps me communicate with people as I always love to do. To give me something to look forward to.”
Consistent with his laid-back manner, “sometimes I get too caught up in conversation and forget to keep trying to sell the newspaper,” Tim laughs. “That’s just the kind of person I am. I’ll stop selling the newspaper and just try to see what this person is talking about. Because you never know who you’re running across here. You’ve got all kinds of amazing people.”
Tim recently regained the opportunity to talk comfortably with members of the community. Tim claims that even just wearing the Real Change badge has helped. “It changes [the] things people think: ‘OK, he’s with a 501(c)(3), a nonprofit organization, so he’s doing something.’ I’d like to continue doing something with myself.”
From here on out, Tim has set goals for himself: “Be more community-involved, housing, stability.” Although one could easily argue the three are inexorably linked. As Tim works toward these goals and continues to familiarize himself with Bellingham and its denizens, he sells the paper outside of the co-op in Cordata. If you ever see Tim, buy a paper, maybe treat him to some honey water, and definitely introduce yourself. He’s enthusiastic to learn everyone’s name.
Tim is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles. Check out the full May 9 - 15 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization standing up for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.