Pieus Ennels
StreetSense Staff

Street Sense vendor Pieus Ennels said his life began to fall apart in 1987. That was the year his mother died. After his father died two years later, he was convinced the world had turned against him. And he turned against the world as well.

“It was a downfall from there. I began drinking and drugging,” he said. “It led me to be homeless.”

He spent years adrift, with nothing to distract him from his troubles and addictions. But four years ago, Ennels began selling newspapers for Street Sense. He said that was a turning point for him. He was able to quit abusing drugs and alcohol, he said, because he was occupied by his work.

Selling papers has not only helped Ennels in his struggle with addiction, it has changed his state of mind.

“I’m almost back in the working class,” Ennels said. “I’ve gotten back into the working class mind, and I appreciate what Street Sense has done.”

In spite of his optimism, health issues have prevented Ennels from a complete return to the workforce. He had surgery for cancer on his left lung four days before Christmas and has since struggled physically.

And, still without a permanent home, Ennels continues to sleep in homeless shelters. Occasionally he stays with a nephew, but he does not like burdening his family. He hopes connections with his customers in Columbia Heights or Connecticut Avenue will lead to an available room or apartment.

Generosity from customers has continued to buoy Ennel’s hopefulness. His best memory of selling Street Sense was last Christmas when he received a card and $50 from someone on the street.

“A lot of people turn their nose up. I try to explain that homelessness could happen to anyone. That gift really picked up my spirits,” he said.

Always smiling and looking on the bright side, Ennels hopes to return to good health as he approaches his 58th birthday in April, and he is slowly getting back into church after venturing away for a while.

But nothing in Ennels’ future puts a smile on his face quite like the potential for romance.

“A nice middle-aged lady that needs a middle-aged man,” Ennels said when asked what he is most looking forward to. “I try to be as enjoyable as I can, but I need someone to have enjoyment with.”

As a four-year veteran vendor of Street Sense, Ennels has had his share of experiences on the street. Because of his embattled past, Ennels’ favorite part of selling newspapers is that it keeps his mind busy with positive ideas, instead of the “strange thoughts” that used to haunt him.

“I’m not trying to have those strange thoughts anymore.”