On the sidewalk next to the US Bank building at 2601 Mission street, 62 year old Gustavo Palma digs out a set of trinkets and lays them out on the building’s embankment. There are keychains, lanyards, packets of fake play money and other little toys. 

“The little kids really like the fake money, they go crazy for them,” Palma said in Spanish.

Selling trinkets on the sidewalk is Palma’s main source of income nowadays. His luck since leaving Guatemala three years ago – he had been assaulted by a gang – hasn’t been great.  

He worked for Farina Pizzeria for several months in 2016, but failed to get paid and joined others in a lawsuit for unpaid wages.  In the meantime, he ended up homeless, living in shelters and struggling to find a way to survive on the streets.

“I used to hop on the 14th bus line and ride it all night, it was the safest place to sleep here,”
Palma said.

Though he has yet to receive his wages from Farina, six months ago Palma qualified for low income housing, and now rents a room for $50 a month at the Vincentian Villa at 1825 Mission Street.

“Here they gave me medicine for my diabetes, helped me with dental work, housed me. They even help There are a lot of opportunities here, thankfully,” Palma said.