As an Electronics Mechanic for the WMATA silver line, vendor James Davis knows what it’s like to travel to a destination with a few stops along the way.
And that is a metaphorical path for the direction his life has taken.
Davis became homeless in 2003, but it was only one stop on his journey. As a self-proclaimed workaholic, Davis knows that he has to slow down sometimes, but that he can’t ever stop moving altogether.
“The reason I became homeless was because … I was a workaholic, I did a lot of traveling for my job,” he said.
By 2001, his hard work had already earned him two degrees in electronic technology and computer sciences from the DeVry Institute in Atlanta, GA. He was working at the Allied Signal Corporation and Tracor Inc. as an engineering technician until September 11 of that year.
His career overwhelmed his time and he eventually found his home life falling apart despite his professional success. Davis suffered a nervous breakdown and became depressed because his parents both passed away within a six-month period, which led to even more stress from work.
“I never really gave myself time to grieve for my parents because I threw myself even more into my work,” he said.
He said his marriage suffered from his emotional state, and he and his wife went through a divorce. Soon after, he lost his security clearance at this government job, was laid off from work, which spurred his “downward spiral into homelessness.”
Although some may see homelessness as near impossible to overcome, Davis immediately began to work toward a better future. While he was at the Central Union Mission men’s emergency shelter in 2003, he heard about Street Sense and he became a vendor.
On the same day, he joined the National Coalition for the Homeless. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of his membership with both programs.
“I want to thank all those people who supported me and who stuck by the paper and supported it,” he said.
Because of his strong work ethic, Davis found himself seeking deeper involvement with both organizations. He now wears many hats with Street Sense and has traveled all over the nation speaking on behalf of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Davis is a member of the vendor advisory team, where he often mentors and trains other vendors and individuals experiencing homelessness. He said he feels his work has helped others as well as himself.
“I like to look at it as what have I done for people coming to Street Sense because I like to use it as a vehicle to motivate myself,” he said. “I was suffering from depression and so it helped me not worry so much about my depression … it’s been a therapeutic tool for me but it was more about me helping others in similar situations to get out of their homeless situation.”