The people of Fremont know Sabina Lopez for her smile.
The 42-year-old mother of three is a warm presence at the corner of 34th and Fremont avenues., showing
up nearly every day to sell Real Change. Lopez, a vendor of five years, has her sales tactic down pat —
simple kindness and an infectious laugh.
“I’ve met a lot of people here, and my customers are now my friends,” says Lopez.
A Seattle resident since she was 7 years old, her family moved up from southern California to start a
restaurant. Unfortunately, she fell on hard times, struggling with substance abuse, depression and unstable
housing. With the high price of rent and competition for affordable housing, Lopez is still working to get a
stable, indoor place to stay — but she got sober and manages her depression through the relationships she
forged through the Real Change community and with her customers.
It was no surprise, then, when her fellow vendors voted to make Lopez a Vendor of the Year in 2018.
“It was totally amazing,” Lopez said. “When I won I was totally excited.”
In the days leading up to the 24th Real Change Annual Breakfast, the organization’s biggest fundraising
event of the year, Lopez was nervous. She and fellow Vendor of the Year George Sidwell would have to
get up on an elevated podium and speak before hundreds of people. It would be the first time Lopez ever
took on a public-speaking gig.
“I’ve got butterflies,” she said before the crowd.
But Lopez had nothing to worry about.
“I have hope in my life,” she told the crowded ballroom. She thanked her customers, one of whom was in
the audience, and left the podium to a standing ovation.
“I have hope in my life.”
The theme of 2018’s breakfast was mythbusting, using data to prove that many tropes circulating about
people experiencing homelessness in Seattle and King County are based on misconceptions born out of
racism and classism. But all of the facts in the world fall flat without a human face, a human story with
which people can empathize.
Lopez knows this well, and uses her time in Fremont to bust through those stereotypes with smiles.
“You don’t know what they’re out there for,” Lopez said. “Anybody could be homeless at any point in their
life. Never judge anybody. Always smile at somebody, always say hello.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Freeda Babson is and artist/muralist whose work appears on many Washington walls like at
Gilda’s Club and The Food Bank at St. Mary’s in Seattle. She comes from a family of artists —
her mother a painter and her father a stained glass artist, painter and wooden toy maker. She has
had a paint brush in her hand for as long as she can remember.