Julie Gallagher

Elizabeth Bryant has a confident, hopeful attitude that shines through her warm smile, despite the many challenges she has had.

Bryant, 55, has been a Street Sense vendor for almost two years and sells her papers at Dupont Circle. Bryant said that she likes working for Street Sense and tells anyone who sees her selling papers that, “Street Sense will give back your independence. If you want a fair job, try Street Sense.”

Bryant is originally from Gooseland, VA, and was adopted when she was five-months-old. She has been residing in Washington, D.C. ever since. Bryant currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment in southeast Washington, D.C.

Bryant described one of her favorite memories as being comforted by her mother when she was sick.

“It made me feel safe and loved,” Bryant remembered.

That feeling of love transferred into Bryant’s own desire to become a mother and a grandmother.

Bryant’s older daughter, Lucretia, died of cancer a few years ago, and her younger daughter, Bernice, lives in Washington, D.C. Bryant has seven grandchildren ranging in ages from two-years-old to the late teens. Bryant said that she does not speak to her daughter or grandchildren.

“I’m praying that they’ll come back. I love being a mother and grandmother,” Bryant said. “I still love them. I miss them all the time, I think about them all the time.”

Bryant battled alcohol and drug addiction for a long time. She is now eight years sober and will be celebrating nine years soon. Bryant participated in a recovery program and attends AA meetings regularly.

“I have a lot of support,” Bryant said proudly. Bryant receives a lot of her support through her church, Paramount Baptist Church, and believes that God has been good to her.

Not only has Bryant displayed incredible determination in her effort to get and stay sober, but also she is very eager to work and constantly better herself.

“I like working at Street Sense. The reason I like it is because there are no bosses hanging on top of us, out in the street,” Bryant said. “You can work as many hours as you want or as few hours as you want. It’s up to you.”

Bryant said that there is a mutual feeling of respect between vendors and Street Sense staff, the environment is “family-oriented,” and she always looks forward to working.

Bryant was attending Academy of Hope the last time that Street Sense sat down to speak with her. However, she had to stop going to school for health reasons.

“I want to go back. I’m doing very well in school, but the reason I’m not going now is because I have arthritis in my right leg. I’ve been in a lot of pain,” Bryant said. “That stopped me from going to school because I don’t want to miss a lot of days and get thrown out of school because I have pain.”

Recently, Bryant has only been able to sell papers two days a week because of the pain in her legs, but she said that it is much better lately.

“It’s a whole lot better now, but it stopped me for a while. I couldn’t come to work, I couldn’t go to school, I couldn’t go to meetings,” Bryant said. “It’s getting better. I can do things now. It comes and it goes.”

Now that Bryant’s health is improving, she wants to try to exercise more.

“I’m trying to do water aerobics three times a week,” Bryant said, hoping to start soon.

Bryant is most proud of the fact that she has never given up on improving herself and her life. She said that she does not believe in sitting around, doing nothing.

“I don’t use the words ‘can’t do it,’” Bryant said.