'Contributor' vendor who drives BMW defends against critics - WSMV News 4

'Contributor' vendor who drives BMW defends against critics

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A formerly homeless man says selling 'The Contributor' turned his life around. (WSMV) A formerly homeless man says selling 'The Contributor' turned his life around. (WSMV)

A formerly homeless man in Nashville shared how he spends his money and why he is now defending himself against others who call him a fraud.

It’s Monday, Jan. 4. Despite freezing cold temperatures, Don Nash went to work just like every other day selling The Contributor newspaper in downtown Nashville.

Across town in Bellevue, Charles Haynes has the same job.

Both men have a go-to spot for selling papers. Their customers know to find them there. The only difference is how they get to work.

Nash takes the bus, while Haynes drives his BMW.

“It makes me mad that a man would spend the public’s money to go out and get a luxury like that, that outdoes their cars. That ain’t right,” Nash said.

Both men have a history of homelessness, which qualifies them to sell The Contributor. There are no limits on how much more they can make and no requirement on how they spend it.

Nash said he used to have a car, and some other Contributor salespeople have them, too.

“But they ain’t luxury cars,” Nash said. “They’re old, beat-up jalopies, 2000s or 95s, something like that.”

Haynes told Channel 4 he was familiar with the criticism about his car. He said someone once spit on it after realizing it belonged to him.

Haynes also has housing now and said he is earning an honest living.

“I work hard for it,” Haynes said. “I got up early to catch the bus, riding the bus with a bike. Now I got this car. Now you’re sweating me because I did the right thing? If I was doing drugs, y’all wouldn’t even bother me.”

But some, including Metro Councilman Steve Glover, are questioning Haynes’ honesty.

Glover said customers don’t know about Haynes’ BMW because he parks it behind a gas station.

“Why is he parking so far away if he wasn’t ashamed of it or embarrassed of it? I think that raises some legitimate questions,” Glover said.

Haynes defended his luxury vehicle.

“It don’t matter. If you working a job, you working for a living. I’m working for a living,” he said.

Some customers said they would be less inclined to purchase The Contributor from him if they saw his BMW.

“I’d be a little skeptical as to why he’s selling The Contributor newspaper,” said Melanie Stanley, a Contributor customer.

“If there are several individuals who use it to buy cars and things like that, it’s really unfortunate, because I don’t think it was set up to do that,” said Rubin Baskir, a Contributor customer.

The Contributor’s mission statement reads, in part, “to provide homeless and formerly homeless newspaper vendors with a source of income.”

“We think Charles is a success story,” said Brady Banks, executive director of The Contributor. “Anybody that earns a living and can buy a car, that’s a good story. That’s something we’re proud of.”

Banks said another goal at The Contributor is to restore dignity for the salespeople, which is why they don’t ask questions about how they spend their money.

“We invest in people,” Banks said. “We create economic opportunity for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. The bottom line is if they get out of poverty, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

“If he’s got a home and he’s able to buy this type of transportation, maybe it’s time he comes off the street and moves out for someone who has a legitimate concern,” Glover said. “I’m not sure he’s legitimate in this case.”

Haynes said after years of struggling with addiction and poverty, he is finally working hard and making a living for himself.

Haynes said he had no regrets or apologies.

“I’m doing the right thing,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing.”

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