Lorraine “Rain” Duchalard, sits down for her interview not to talk so much about herself, but to talk about her customers. To say thank you to the people she’s known who have helped her, and to Street Roots, where she has worked selling the newspaper for a little over a year. And a special thanks to Frank Cobb, another vendor, who, when she was just starting out, offered her some words of advice.
“There was a point where I was selling Street Roots, and no matter what I did it didn’t work,” Rain says, thinking back. “I was busting my butt and it wasn’t working. And then I see Frank, and he says, ‘Perseverance, patience. Stand there and smile. Do your best and it will get better.’ And it did! He would say, ‘Hang in there. Smile more!’ Next thing you know, boom, someone bought a paper for $20, and I knew that I’m going to make this work.”
Today, Rain sells outside of Zupan’s on Belmont Avenue, where she has come to know her customers and make enough income to support her housing. She is a little shy, but inside is a great optimist — and a jokester, as her friends will tell you.
But it wasn’t too long ago that she was homeless, divorced and unemployed, with two daughters, living in and out of shelters, trying to find work and stability. Rain has a hearing disability, and mental and physical health challenges, and, of course, the economy wasn’t helping her chances at finding a job, she says.
A year and a half ago, she found herself at Sisters of the Road Café, where she read about selling Street Roots in the Rose City Resource guide. She headed down to the office to check it out.
“I went there and first thing I did was read the paper,” Rain says. “And within two minutes of reading the first article, a smile came to my face, and I knew I wanted to do this.”
She secured a subsidized apartment, and she’s now waiting for her Social Security Insurance to come through. She receives assistance on rent, she says, but the money from sales keeps her utilities turned on — mandatory in subsidized housing. It means having clean clothes, toilet paper, food, and a cell phone to stay connected with her daughters, who she says were at her side through it all, keeping her focused on getting back on their feet. “It’s my kids that gave me the strength,” she says, with emotions welling in her eyes.
“My girls have always been proud of me, and they knew I was doing the best that I can. They knew why we were homeless and what I was doing about it. They knew that this too shall pass.”
Rain says she deals with a lot of assumptions from people while she’s vending the paper, but what is most important, even more important then selling the paper, is people acknowledging her when she says “hi.”
She also often gets asked why she sells the paper.
“Street Roots makes me happy. It’s my breath of fresh air. I feel like I’m giving back. I’m doing something, not only for myself, but for society at large … It’s about educating people about what it really means to be homeless. They need to know what poverty looks like, what it is. Out here, 56 percent of people who are homeless are families, like me and my girls. We’re not drug addicts. We’re not abusers. I don’t even smoke cigarettes or drink coffee.”
The newspaper, and others like it around the world, are changing the world for the better, says Rain. “You see it in myself and the fellow vendors. I’ve seen how far my life has come in the year and a half because of Street Roots.”
For the coming year, Rain says she’s going to continue to survive — and sell Street Roots more often.
“I’m going to hold my head up high,” she pledges, “And I’m going to say ‘thanks’ more.”