Vendor Profile: Gary Davis

By Linette Hidalgo  |  Photo by Giles Clasen

Photo by Giles ClasenDenver VOICE vendor Gary Davis is a prime example of turning mistakes into stepping stones on the path to success. Gary has had a long journey battling alcohol addiction, a problem which has led to him being homeless more than once. Today, however, Gary is one year sober and housed. 

Adopted as a child, Gary grew up in Yates Center, Kansas, on his family’s 160-acre farm. He actively worked on the farm throughout his childhood alongside his two brothers (who were also adopted). An advanced student, Gary graduated a year early from high school. 

Gary attended Allen County Community College with intentions of being pre-med until he realized the sciences were not his strong suit. After a year of community college, he transferred to Union College in Nebraska. At this point, Gary became acquainted with college parties. He soon began enjoying this aspect of college life far more than his studies.

After one semester, Gary left Union College and found work in construction. At about this time, a youthful escapade in Indianapolis with a friend ended with both young men’s arrests and time served in a juvenile facility. After his release, Gary returned to Kansas, where he resumed working construction and then married at twenty-two. Gary’s life remained consistent for several years, though he doesn’t deny that drinking was always part of his lifestyle. 

“I saw it as a problem but never really had consequences, except the juvenile facility incident,” Gary explained. Eventually, Gary’s increased alcohol consumption and drug use led to the dissolution of his marriage and his first experience with homelessness. 

Hitchhiking and jumping freight trains brought Gary to Denver. He worked day labor jobs and became a live-in caretaker for an ailing man named Larry. The two remained friends until Larry passed away. Unable to pay for an apartment independently, Gary was homeless once again. He continued to work day labor periodically, and began vending the Denver VOICE in 2008 after speaking with a vendor he met downtown. 

Despite his ability to work consistently, Gary found himself in and out of jail for several years. He completed various substance abuse treatment programs in an attempt to become sober. Jail and treatment only led to stints of sobriety for Gary until 2014, when he was arrested for a probation violation. Instead of a jail sentence he was offered entrance into the Recovery Court program, which aims to address the root causes of issues commonly seen among low-level offenders. Gary was assigned a case manager, provided with housing, and began attending alcohol support groups regularly. He now participates in alcohol abuse prevention classes and checks in with a judge weekly to assess his progress in Recovery Court.

Gary admits that vending the Denver VOICE has helped him on his journey to sobriety. 

“Vending the VOICE helps me stay sober; my self-esteem is so much better,” said Gary. “I am working and really doing something; I am self- sufficient.” 

Though Gary is proud of his recovery, he would not define himself as a recovered alcoholic. “I don’t want that to be my label,” said Gary. He would rather be known as a survivor, a man of faith, a nice guy, and someone who seeks to fulfill his purpose in life. Currently, Gary is focused on finding a meaningful vocation and hopes to enroll in a certificate program at Emily Griffith to learn water quality management. ■