MICHAEL BURKLEY – Vendor Profile January 2015


Houston-native Michael Burkley began this interview with a performance of his impressive dance and tai chi skills. Even after hours in an empty vendor office, Michael brought with him a contagious joy that could not be ignored. The joy he displays is that of a fighter. Despite his battle with drug addiction, incarceration, and homelessness, his is a happiness that cannot be defeated. 

“I love life, I really do,” Michael said. 

Michael has been vending the VOICE for two years. When not selling the paper, Michael spends his time looking for housing and teaching himself how to play the guitar. In his younger days, he loved dancing. 

“I came to Denver to go to school in 1979, but I stayed for the night life and the disco,” Michael said. 

Michael attended Lowry Tech School after finishing basic training for the military. He stayed in Denver for the party scene, which eventually led to a life of trouble, incarceration, and homelessness. 

“I was fully functional for ten years. I worked nine to five, spent every night at the disco, then in the end came home to a sad hole in the wall apartment.” Michael became addicted to cocaine, calling himself a “cocaine monster from hell.” “Before I knew it, I was on social security and living in the projects,” Michael explained. 

Michael lost his job, lost his apartment, and began his new chapter on the streets. He was eventually arrested for drug possession in 2006, and sent to prison. 

“I was incarcerated for two years, I got out, and I have been living on the streets since,” Michael said. 

Michael currently stays at a shelter in Boulder; however, there is a daily lottery to get a bed. If Michael picks a high number, and is in line behind a lot of other people, he doesn’t get in.

If beds are not available, Michael makes the forty-five minute trip to DIA to sleep there. Michael hopes the VOICE will help him get into a better living arrangement. 

“[Being homeless] is difficult. It is unfortunate that we have to fight with everything we have everyday for something that everyone has, and takes advantage of,” Michael said. 

Until he can find steady employment, Michael will continue to vend the VOICE, and meeting as many new people as he can.

“I love meeting new people [while vending] and seeing everyone from different walks of life,” Michael said. 

Michael enjoys vending at various locations, but can usually be found along the 16th Street Mall. ■