Ralph is facing some major challenges now. Social Security and government assistance won’t go far in providing food and shelter for him and his wife while she is disabled. Getting out to Berkeley Bowl with the Street Spirit every day will keep up his spirits and a roof over their heads.
It is an understatement to say that Night on the Streets has made a difference in Berkeley. JC Orton has actually created services for the homeless when they did not exist. He started out distributing food, then began visiting the sick, helping people find housing, and even helping with income taxes.
“It’s just relentless,” Belinda said. “Living outside, you become feral because you’re out here fighting for your life. It’s cold, it’s brutal, people are crazy.” What’s also dogging her life is police harassment and the threat of jail. It’s the system’s routine treatment of people who are homeless.
When Sanam Kazerouni left her native Iran, she says, “I lost my country, my culture, my friends and family.” But she has found freedom and many friends in Berkeley who have welcomed her to a new home. She recalls a favorite saying: “Wherever you stop running is your home.”
J.C. Orton, the new director of the Street Spirit vendor program, received this letter from a female vendor on Father’s Day. It is a testimony to the caring spirit behind Orton’s work with the vendors, and the way he has revitalized the program to better serve the homeless community.
Kenneth McCoy, age 64, has been selling Street Spirit since he was diagnosed with colon cancer six years ago and found he had no way to pay for the medicine he needed to survive. Now he has a roof over his head and the income from his Street Spirit sales.
J.C. Orton, the new director of Street Spirit’s vendor program, has revitalized the entire program and made remarkable improvements in the number of vendors working, the number of issues sold, and the overall morale of vendors. Best of all, vendors now feel they have someone truly cares about them.