Though Owens mostly sold in front of the co-op--a coveted location awarded to the paper's most successful vendors--he also hawked Groundcover at a local church before services. Sales were good there, too. (The paper costs $1 and vendors aren't allowed to ask for more, but they can accept tips if they're offered.) And then, in February, Owens disappeared. His probation over, he returned to West Virginia, where his brother hired him as a long-haul trucker.
Reached by phone, Owens said that thanks to Groundcover he made enough (he declined to say how much) to put down a deposit for his own semi. "People in Ann Arbor are generous," he says. "I'm blessed."
To sell Groundcover, vendors must be either homeless or in imminent danger of losing their housing. Most of the two-dozen or so regulars earn far less than Owens, averaging between $75 and $200 a month. Yet even those modest earnings have helped at least half a dozen vendors get off the streets or out of the Delonis Center and into rented rooms or apartments.