Jeffrey Chambers has been a vendor for the Street Sheet for the 16 years he has lived in San Francisco. It’s the only job he’s ever had here. He never really felt that he needed to do anything else. He lives with his wife in a townhouse on Treasure Island that they’ve had for nine years. Together they have three sons — ages 12, 13 and 15 — but they are living with their grandmother temporarily in Stockton. Before the townhouse, Jeffrey and his family lived temporarily at Hamilton Mercy shelter, so he really appreciates having a home now.
Despite living all the way out on Treasure Island, he still manages to come into the city every day to pick up a stack of Street Sheets. And rather than stay and try to sell them in the city, he returns to Treasure Island to sell them. He feels like it’s sort of his domain because nobody else sells the Street Sheet there. He talks to people and tells them about his kids and that his primary concern is keeping his family healthy and fed. This has become even more of a concern now that his wife has cancer. Jeffrey told me about a particularly special day selling the Street Sheet on Treasure Island where he was able to sell an entire bundle, which is 100 papers. He went home with $300 that day and felt really good about it.
“I tell people I have three boys and that I’m out here trying to take care of my family, as well as myself,” he said. “I give people the truth and if they don’t like it I’m sorry but that’s all I’m gonna do is tell the truth.”
In addition to selling the paper to care for his family, he also genuinely cares about the issues that the paper covers. As someone who has experienced homelessness himself, he cares deeply about the rights of others and believes that it’s important to be aware of what people go through. I asked Jeffrey what kind of advice he would give to someone about staying off the streets.
“If you wanna stay off the streets, just take one day and go out there for one day and you would know what we go through there’s a lot of drama out there,” he said. “It’s crazy. If you just go with your heart, you’ll make your ends meet, and people will pick you up and help you get along with life, because a brain is a terrible thing to waste. So when you’re out there, you know you can waste it but you can’t.” ≠