Larry Felder grew up in Chicago in “a typical ghetto neighborhood, with your prostitutes and your pimps and hustlers.”
There’s not much left to tie him to that city. “My parents deceased years ago.”
Larry decided to move here after he saw “Sleepless in Seattle.” “That movie was an inspiration to me. I came to Seattle on Dec. 4, 1994. I saw how beautiful it was, but very troubled, same thing as all the other cities: crime, corruption. I was homeless then, homeless now.”
He worked various temporary jobs, including at one of Microsoft’s cafeterias in Bellevue. He doesn’t remember how he found out about Real Change.
In the past 20 years, he’s met “understanding people that are helpful and then them that are not so helpful.” He counts among the helpful the people where he sells the paper, Starbucks in SODO, both the staff and the customers. “I want to thank Starbucks for being generous with me, for letting me work there. People treat me with respect, kindness, and I do the same.” His customers talk to him about their days — “They have good days, bad days, a lot of just trying to cope with the day.”
Larry has several interests outside work. He likes blues and fondly remembers hearing Koko Taylor at the summer Chicago blues festival. James Brown and Bobby “Blue” Bland are also favorites. He also listens to soul, particularly Al Green, and mellow jazz.
He also likes to watch movies. “That’s much better than casinos.” His favorites are “comic book movies, science fiction, Avengers, lot of excitement.” He also likes to read, but more serious stuff: business books, psychology, religious books and how-to books. “I enjoy making art, like braided keychains and ashtrays. I’d like to get back into that, make some money.”
He’s also a poet. “I wrote over 99 poems. I wanted to get them published but they were stolen. It’s been so long ago, but I’m going to try to write them again.” His poetry was designed to make people feel good. “Every time they read it, it lifts them.”
For the future, Larry would like to have his own business. “I had an idea of opening up chess parlors. A lot of people like chess. That would be nice for people to get together and shoot the breeze and play chess.” To make it more entertaining, he would put live people on the chessboard. “They call it out, have somebody announce it, and make the moves.” He imagines a network of chess parlors all over the world, “like Microsoft or Starbucks.”
Larry sees Real Change as a necessary but temporary help for people on the streets. “Homeless people have to help themselves. They have to be motivated to do things. This is a good start for them, if they’ve never worked before. And then they can move on.”
Larry’s birthday is in June. If you buy a paper from him, be sure to wish him a happy birthday!
Larry 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 30 - June 5 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating 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.