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Man Goes From Being Homeless to a Homeowner by Selling Newspapers

”We fell on hard times, but now those hard times are over.”

Image via CC (credit: Corena Hasselle)

A Nashville man is proving that a little bit a savings can go a long way.

For the six years since he’d been laid off from his job, Mario Martinez had been homeless, living with his five dogs in a small abandoned trailer with no heat or running water. With his sidekick Bear, a Great Pyrenees, he stood on a street corner selling copies of the nonprofit newspaper The Contributor for half a decade. By saving virtually all the cash he earned, he’s finally raked in enough of a profit to go from not having a home to being a homeowner.

“I’m just so grateful,” Martinez tells WKRN. “There are so many people who believed in me.”

Martinez routed the money he’d collected from selling newspapers toward opening a lawn care business. He eventually amassed enough funds to put a down payment on a home. Unfortunately, no one seemed willing to help him do that, except realtor Brian Kemp. He had noticed Bear and stopped to talk to Martinez on the street corner while he was selling The Contributor.

“Everybody notices him!” Martinez says about his giant dog. “He’s the one who made the money; I just collected it for him.”

Kemp assisted Martinez in purchasing a 2,500-square-foot home, with ample room for both him and his pets, on a three-acre plot of land in Charlotte, Tennessee.

“Mario helped me restore my faith in the people that are standing out on the street asking for money,” Kemp says. “I won’t look the other way anymore.”

As for Martinez, he’s looking forward to his new home’s amenities, namely the Jacuzzi bathtub and stove, which, he says, will inspire him to learn how to cook.

“So we fell on hard times, but now those hard times are over,” Martinez says. “The kids and I, we’re going to have a home. I’m so excited. I worked hard for this.”

So students can become empathetic to the plight of homeless individuals such as Martinez, the Harvard Square Business Association in Cambridge, Massachusetts, recently announced a project, slated to take place on May 7, a National Day of Service, that gives high school students an opportunity to sell Spare Change newspapers in their neighborhoods.

The street newspaper, founded in 1992, works with the Homeless Empowerment Project in the greater Boston area to provide work to around 100 vendors, who purchase copies of the paper for 35 cents each, and then sell them for $1 on the street, earning a 65 cent profit.

Katherine Bennett, executive director of Spare Change News, says, “We know that having student walk in the shoes of our vendors will lead to a greater understanding of the plight of the homeless and nearly homeless in our communities.”

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