Jennifer Ortiz

Since Street Sense’s inception in 2003, Phillip Howard has been “putting a happy spirit” in the people he encounters every day as a vendor.  He says that God gives him the strength daily to fulfill all his duties from selling papers, talking to people, and cheering up passersby who may have had rough days.

Howard runs into a lot of students where he sells his papers in the Georgetown area, and those encounters have allowed him to reflect on the decisions he made when he was younger. He tries to encourage young people to stay on the right track and remain in school.

“When I was growing up, I got in trouble. It’s easy to get in, but it’s hard as hell to get out,” he said.

He prides himself in knowing that he has turned his life around since his youth, and he hopes to be a prime example to his 13-year-old daughter.

Howard worked in maintenance at the Washington Convention Center until arthritis put a halt to his active lifestyle in 2004. He said that he wasn’t so worried about having to leave his job because he believed that God always provides for his needs “in a matter of time.”

“All you need is peace of mind, a pure heart, and the spirit of happiness,” Howard says.

Howard tells stories of winning the lottery a few times in the past. Because he understands the value of money, he says he uses any extra cash to pay off his bills in advance. He also likes to buy new clothes when he gets the chance, but notes that his main priorities are always to be able to feed himself, bathe, and pay off any bills he has

Howard recalled his times at Franklin Shelter where he had only a place to stay at night and was forced to leave the premises despite snow or rain. Howard has been housed for six and a half years, and he enjoys being able to have his own personal space where he can come and go as he pleases.

“I thank God for that,” he said. “Only God knows how I made it through that time at the shelter.”

Having a space to himself has allowed Howard to delve more into his interests and hobbies. In his free time he enjoys creative writing and reading books on history and Guinness World Records. One of Howard’s favorite movies is The Little Rascals, and he has an extensive list of classic movies that he enjoys.

He also enjoys listening to all kinds of music—from hip hop to opera, jazz, and rock and roll. Howard said that each genre has its own unique sound, and he is able to appreciate the different forms of artistic expression each one of them has to offer. He thinks that a lot of people may say they don’t like something to hide the fact that they don’t understand it.

Howard trusts that his God works through people, and his time at Street Sense has been a testament to the blessings he believes God can provide.

“You cannot live in this world alone,” said Howard. “People have done things for me that I couldn’t even imagine.”