She walks to Sweet Adeline Bakery four times a week on an injured leg and waits. With a stack of newspapers, and an I.D tag that says “vendor” attached to her shirt, Rosalind Smith has been selling Street Spirit on the same corner for the last three years.
“Street Spirit! Going once, going twice,” Smith cries out from the corner of 63rd and Adeline streets as she sits under a tree and watches people walk in and out of the bakery on a Saturday morning.
At 58, Smith remains vibrant and energetic. She knows everyone that comes through the bakery and everybody knows her. For her, she says, it’s not just about selling newspapers, it’s about making friendships.
Smith sells to just about everyone, but her most loyal clients are senior citizens. “I met an elderly lady once who was probably in her 80s and I told her what the papers were, and she gave me $100-dollar bill,” she said.
On a good day, Smith can go home with about $20 to $25 dollars. She uses the money she makes on a daily basis to buy food, wash her clothes and take care of all her other everyday necessities or a little self-care, like setting her hair.
Smith is originally from Stockton and moved to Oakland with her family in 1978 at the age of 17. She’s a mother of two and loves to talk about her eight grandchildren.
Seven years ago, she got married and now her and her husband, Art Roper both sell Street Spirit. Smith takes the morning shift, working three to four hours a day, while her husband works the afternoon shift.
During one of these shifts, she learned about a program that is going to help her expand her community outreach.
It’s called, Heart 2 Heart, and it’s an eight-week long program that trains volunteers to provide care to South and West Berkeley residents who struggle with high blood pressure and heart disease—issues that typically affect low-income African American people.
After completing the eight-week training, Smith graduated from Heart 2 Heart on October 24. “I’m just proud of myself, I can say I did that, I graduated,” she said.
This means that Smith can now help facilitate two-hour blood pressure clinics out in her community with the rest of the Heart 2 Heart team and promote outreach events a few times a month.
“I can come back to my community and work. I can help senior citizens and the homeless population,” she said.
The program gives her the flexibility to work as much or as little as she wants. Her job will allow her to continue engaging directly with the community.
“Rosalind is a very open minded and outspoken individual, she likes to talk about the issues in the community and she is a great advocate for the community we are trying to serve,” said Vincente Cordero, the Community Engagement Specialist at Life Long Medical who has been facilitating the trainings at Heart 2 Heart in collaboration with the City of Berkeley’s Department of Public Health.
Heart 2 Heart volunteers are eligible to receive stipends for completing their eight-week training program, and are also eligible to receive a small monthly incentive for their work.
For Smith, this is a stepping stone to something bigger. She won’t stop selling Street Spirit, but she’s excited about continuing to give to her community and getting back on her feet in the process.
“I have some adorable clients who are going to miss me if I leave,” Smith said of the people she regularly sells the paper to. “I love to work, to be out in public. I love people.”
Street Spirits is a monthly column, first published at Street Spirit, in which someone who lives on the street tells their story.