Vendor Chris Shaw
Vendor Chris Shaw

Our life is what our thoughts make it. For Street Sense author Chris “The Cow­boy Poet” Shaw, life hasn’t always been easy. Despite this, his optimism and love for life have kept him continually inspired for change. His story embodies a fight for his personal beliefs, his pursuit of the things he loves, and his faith in himself.

Shortly after his parents passed away, Shaw became homeless. Finding himself in a city where he was free from any af­filiation from his former life, no one was there to help him back on his feet. Dur­ing this period of emotional isolation, the Cowboy Poet stayed true to his name and kept journals to help him sort out how his feelings and maintain his writing skills. Shaw said that whenever he was feeling down, his “bones began to fill with rhetoric.”

He credits writing and music with helping him keep his head during the hardest times. Eventually, Shaw sought the support from Twelve-Step programs that steered him away from the dead-end feeling of having nothing. Thanks to the help he received through those programs, combined with prayer, he managed to move on with his life.

After five years at Street Sense, Shaw is no longer homeless and has big dreams for the future. In addition writing for the newspaper he has been heavily involved with the Street Sense Writer’s Group. He says he has found working with the group and with the larger Street Sense community extremely rewarding. Shaw says he loves giving feedback to new vendors and hopes to be a mentor to many. As Shaw explains it , he not only wants to divert people from making poor decisions, but also wants to inspire them to become the best people they can be.

Making this point, Shaw beams with happiness. He reflects upon the positive changes he has managed to make in his life during his time in DC. He speaks about his band ETUFE and how he is inspired by music from New Orleans and artists like Louis Armstrong. Shaw says he embraces new challenges each day. .

“No matter what you’re doing you should always persevere. Don’t give up. Always keep trying”. When asked what he does to maintain his happy-go-lucky personality, he said that he’d encourage everyone to eat sushi and to listen to lots of James Brown for a healthy mind—he’s done both for 30 years and it has worked for him!

Despite having a successful internship, a stable income, and a loving partner, Chris has never forgotten his roots at Street Sense and continues to inspire readers and volunteers everyday. Stay tuned for his poetry each week and who knows—you might be seeing him playing in his band around DC.