By Danielle Krolewicz | Photo by Sarah Harvey
Jon Everett originally heard about the Denver VOICE through word of mouth. It took him a little while to decide if he wanted to become a vendor, but, six years later, he can regularly be found outside the clock tower at Arapahoe and 16th streets.
Jon was born into a military family. When he was young, his family moved around the globe. Jon and his sister were born in Dover, Delaware, but his other three siblings were born in England and West Palm Beach, Florida. After twenty years in the Air Force, Jon’s father retired and settled the family back in Colorado shortly before Jon turned 18.
Prior to moving to Denver, Jon lived in Sterling, working predominately for a company that manufactured carnival rides like the Gravitron, the Tornado, the Avalanche, and the Dragon Wagon, among others. Nine years ago, Jon decided to move to Denver in order to start a new life.
“I love Denver because they got a lot of opportunities here. Sterling was only about 15,000 [people]. Not a lot going on over there,” said Jon.
However, the new life Jon found in Denver wasn’t the one he anticipated. Shortly after moving, his brain swelled up, putting pressure on his skull. The result was blockage in his pupil, which left him blind in one eye. Then, two years ago in May, glaucoma hit his good eye.
“When it first happened I thought something just flew in my eye, and I bought some kind of solution to put in my eye,” said Jon. He tried for two weeks to treat his eye on his own before he finally went to the hospital. “Worst part about it was when they stuck that needle in my eye. They numbed it first, but after it was done it looked like somebody had hit me in the eye.”
The result left Jon legally blind. Some of his vision has since been restored, but he still relies on a cane to get around, and a magnifying glass to read.
“As long as no surprises come up, I’m okay,” said Jon. “If I’m in a place that I’m familiar with, I’m okay, as long as nothing is out of place below my knees… I got to be careful. I got to be on my guard.”
Before vending the VOICE, Jon relied on sporadic day labor and “flyering” to earn an income. He felt that with one bad eye no one would hire him. However, after he was declared legally blind, he could no longer do even day labor.
That wasn’t the end of Jon’s health struggles. Last year Jon was on the 16th Street Mall on his way to his favorite coffee shop when he collapsed.
“I just dropped. My face hit the side of the cement,” said Jon. “That was Saturday morning. I had my pacemaker put in Monday morning and was released Tuesday.”
Doctors told him his heart rate had dropped to 29 beats per minute, but Jon is still uncertain what caused him to faint that day. He is just thankful to be alive.
“I didn’t plan on any of this happening. I didn’t know my health was going to be this way,” he said.
Now, through SSI disability and money from vending the VOICE, Jon earns the $260 he needs to pay for his bed each month at the Salvation Army Crossroads. Although it is not a room of his own, Jon is grateful.
“I like it over there because you got a lot of people around. Because of my health I don’t want to be by myself, because if I experience the same thing I did last year about my heart, I’m afraid of no one being around to call 911,” explained Jon.
Jon is no longer able to vend as frequently as he used to. “When I collapsed it just took a toll on me,” said Jon. “If I do any more than two hours, I think I’m pushing it and need to sit down and rest.” Still, he makes an effort to vend Monday through Friday. “It gives me something to do. And you meet a lot of nice people out there.” ■