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Susan Russell

About the Homeless Speakers Bureau

Real Change’s Homeless Speakers Bureau is a group of homeless and formerly homeless people who speak about their personal experiences with homelessness. Speakers help educate the public, facilitate conversation, and inspire social action. See FAQs, and Speaker Profiles for more information, or request a speaker now.

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Susan Russell

Susan Russell was born in Covina, California. Her family moved to Seattle when she was ten years old, but her parents divorced shortly after the move. Family life became unstable, and Susan was kicked out of the house at the age of sixteen. She began working to support herself and never finished school. She went on to find work in the construction industry and became a union laborer and concrete finisher. She worked on the crews that built Safeco Field, the Seahawk Exhibition Center and the West Seattle Bridge. One day, on her way home from work, she was rear-ended by an uninsured driver and severely injured. Unable to continue doing manual work to earn an income, she could no longer pay her mounting medical bills, accumulated debt, and eventually became homeless. She experienced depression and began struggling with addiction while homeless, but soon found a treatment program that she credits with “saving her life.” Susan began selling Real Change in 2013 and immediately became active in the advocacy program. In July 2013 she testified at a Seattle City Council meeting in support of legislation that would legalize tent encampments, and was featured on Q13 Fox News. She is a graduate of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance’s Emerging Advocates Program, and is a regular participant in the University District Conversation on Homelessness. Susan has been featured as Vendor of the Week in Real Change and sells the paper in Phinney Ridge, the neighborhood where she spent her teenage years. She is passionate about sharing her story and educating the public about the realities of homelessness. As she explains, “No one should ever have to go through homelessness on the streets!”