The happiest moment in James Devaugn’s life was December 4, 1972, when his first son, James Devaugn Jr., was born.
“I was just 17,” James recalled.
He now has 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. James enjoys spending time with his family and just having “people.”
“I come from a family that sings,” he boasted.
There are a few gospel singers in his family and his cousin, Raheem Devaugn, makes R&B records. The family also has a strong tradition of football.
“My father was a football player and I was a football player and I made my son a football player,” James explained. Now some of his grandsons play, one at Auburn University.
James didn’t always have so many people around him. As a child, he had a speech impediment, which made it hard to communicate. His stuttering made it take a very long time to express what he wanted to.
“I couldn’t talk like I am now,” James pointed out. “When I was coming up, I found out I wasn’t like the other kids because they would laugh at me.”
Though his grandparents would try to help him speak by asking him to sing what he wanted to say–a common treatment for stuttering)–James remained isolated for much of his childhood. This caused him to act out.
“I was in and out of juvenile facilities,” James admitted.
After getting out of jail, speaking normally, he found work and completed his GED.
“That’s when my life started looking better,” James reflected.
His first job was landscaping at the Navy Yard. He only worked during the summer months while still in school, and went full-time afterward. His last job was with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
“You know how they do to people my age,” James said. “I trained people to do my own job.”
He was fired and has been living in a shelter for about 18 months.
James enjoyed taking care of his family and watching it grow over the years. When he became homeless, he told his wife to go live with her parents, just outside of the District. But they stay in touch.
“I call her, talk to her all the time,” James said.
He also makes sure to talk with his youngest daughter often. She is 18 and preparing to graduate from high school.
“She told me what she wants to be is a veterinarian,” James said proudly.
James has been selling Street Sense for about a month. He learned about the paper from his friend Eric Thomas-Bey, another vendor. James reads the paper first so he can tell customers about what his product, and enjoys meeting new people while he works.
“When they see me and stop and say hi, we can chit-chat,” James said. “I like to talk, that’s because I can talk now.”