The Real Change Portrait Project


Sharon Soocey

"Sharon Soocey" Watercolor & Ink by Ann Morgan
Sharon Soocey loves her customers. “I wouldn’t trade them in for nothing.” When she moved recently, she decided she didn’t want to disappoint her regulars by changing her selling spot, too. To get back to Seattle, Sharon takes Route 510 from her new home in Everett and then catches a bus to the QFC on 15th Avenue, on Capitol Hill. Besides her customers, she also knows all the cashiers and does most of her grocery shopping there. Sharon doesn’t know what year she started selling Real Change, “but when I did I just kept on going, because I was making good money. And I started meeting more people.” Before that, she didn’t have any work. “I was on SSI [Supplemental Security Income]. It’s enough to pay the rent and bills, and that’s about it.” Sharon says Everett is quieter and friendlier. “People like you and they’ll say, ‘Hi,’ and ‘Goodbye.’?” She says her old neighborhood, near where she sells, has been getting rougher. She sometimes has to wait to get her spot if a panhandler has gotten there first. “I have one panhandler that’s real nice about it and tells me that I can have the spot.” Everett is also where her “adopted mom” lives. “I met her in the mission. She’s got a big heart, and she’s real sweet. We don’t have no arguments unless she gets real mad, and then we butt heads. I see her almost every day. I help her, and she helps me.”

Sharon grew up in White Center. Her parents died in the late ’80s: her mom from a rare blood disease and her dad from an overdose of heroin, though he had diabetes and heart trouble, too. She has one brother. “He’s got drug problems, so I don’t speak with him too much.” Her adopted mom is now her main family. Sharon also has a tortoiseshell cat, Phoebe, which she got from the animal shelter for free. “She loves to play. Sometimes she’ll get me up to eat breakfast or dinner. She pounces on my belly. Little stinker.” At home, Sharon plays with the cat and watches comedy shows. She particularly likes “I Love Lucy” and “Roseanne.” She also likes to check out thrift stores, especially now that she needs stuff for her new place. There’s a Goodwill across the street from where she lives, but sometimes she goes to Value Village or St. Vincent de Paul’s just to see what they have. About Real Change, Sharon says, “Once in a great while I read it, but sometimes I just sell it and leave it be. This week I’ll read it because Nickelsville’s in it.” She’s had no complaints about the price increase. “My customers love it. Sometimes they give me a tip on top of the $2.” One of her favorite customers gave her $20, “but I haven’t seen her in months. She’s a writer and does poems.” When asked if she wrote poetry, too, Sharon says, “I wish I could.”

Artist: Ann Morgan
Ann Morgan is an artist and educator who lives in Everett, Washington.

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