Chris Pfaff works at the EZ Mart store in Fayetteville. Photo: Ann Claire Johnson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chris Pfaff, 38, works as a clerk at the EZ Mart convenience store in a Shell gas station. After his shift, he lives out of a tent, one of the thousand of homeless people in Northwest Arkansas.

 “It’s not easy. You have to fight everyday to try to get a shower, you have to fight every day to try to get your laundry done, along with everything else,” Pfaff said. He has been living out of a tent for nearly two months. Pfaff said he does not let the current quality of his life affect his mood or attitude about life when he comes into work on a daily or nightly basis. “I come in every day with my head up high,” he said.

He makes an hourly wage of $8.50 and his responsibilities include stocking the coolers, making sure the coffee is hot and fresh for the customers, keeping the floors cleaned and mopped, working the cash register, and making sure the bathrooms are cleaned. Although he does not have a problem going to work with a smile on his face, he admitted that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel, representing stability and peace, is further away some days. “Some days it feels like a long stretch to get to the end of that tunnel,” he said.

Pfaff grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Arkansas after dropping out of high school his senior year. Pfaff said he does not need a high school diploma or a GED to get a job, but he is actively trying to complete his GED test by utilizing the internet and practicing test-like questions in his spare time.

Cashier and clerk wages vary very little on average, no matter where one works in the United States. Occupational employees, specifically clerk and cashier workers, have hourly wages that rise $3 above minimum wage on average in the United States. This puts and keeps workers, like Pfaff, below the poverty line if they depend on this single job for income.

Pfaff drives his truck to the EZ Mart, which is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. “I slept in my truck for over a month one time. It’s not very comfortable,” he said. He is seeking to raise awareness about the homeless community in Fayetteville. Pfaff and his coworker passed out flyers for Walk a Mile in My Shoes, which is a “march to bring awareness to the rising cost of living and individuals experiencing homelessness in Northwest Arkansas,” that took place April 8.


Prior to working at EZ Mart, Pfaff worked at McDonalds as a griller and at Tyson Foods but had to stop after developing carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist. As a result, he sought a less physically demanding job at the EZ Mart. Pfaff believes that Fayetteville could improve the living conditions for the homeless community by providing more subsidized housing that does not include an extra utility bill to pay. “Not everyone can afford to pay the electric bill on top of our other living expenses,” Pfaff said.