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Lanie Rivera/Street Sense

McDonalds changed a life – for the better.

Vendor Gary J. Minter first heard of Street Sense through a green-vested vendor who was sitting at the local fast food chain. Minter was experiencing homelessness, and when he learned more about the paper, he was interested in becoming involved.

“I was very excited and it paid off,” he said. “It gave me a purpose; it made me feel better about myself.  I was doing something, helping society, something of good purpose [and] a good cause.”

Since working with the paper, Minter has been able to afford his own room after living in shelters and his cousin’s house in Bethesda, M.D.

Minter had not always been a District resident; in 2002, he was living in Raleigh, N.C., working with the North Carolina Department of Health on the surveillance of HIV/AIDS. During this time, he ran for Congress, he met a group of representatives from the National People’s Congress of China who suggested he visit China.

He said to himself, “I’ve never traveled, … I’ve never been out of the U.S. This might be a good time to travel … so why not? It might be my only time to do it.”

Minter quit his job and left for China on March 11, 2004, where he lived for five years working at a radio station and as an English teacher.

“I really loved the people,” he said. “I made some good friends that I’m still in contact with today.”

Unfortunately, he had to return to the states to live with his stepfather in 2008 after his mom passed away a year earlier.  It was at this time when his fall into homelessness began.

Minter began to experience symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems and mild fevers, but was eager to return to China in September 2008.

But his health problems began to take over his life. He didn’t enjoy teaching anymore.

“I just can’t keep doing this,” he said. “I’m not doing a good job for my students.”

After giving notice to the university, he returned to Raleigh in February 2009 and stayed with friends, but then moved to a Super 8 Motel with the money from his mom’s insurance and his 401(k).

“I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. After two years, he became homeless after spending all of his money on his room.

Minter then went to live with his cousin in Bethesda. In 2011, he went to DC to see the Chinese New Year Parade. When he went to McDonalds, one of his favorite restaurants, he encountered a Street Sense vendor for the first time.

He bought a paper from the vendor and decided to become apart of the team the following day because he loved the philosophy of Street Sense. He currently writes for the paper on topics that spark his interest, such as the local HIV/AIDS forum and the Interagency Council on Homelessness.