The life of a homeless rose vendor 

A typical Thursday afternoon for Ramon Méndez is a 90-degree summer day standing on a Palmetto Expressway off-ramp selling roses to make a living. 

Méndez is a homeless immigrant who can usually be found on the Northwest 167th Street off-ramp working no matter the weather. 

Méndez’s life has not been easy; he’s an alcoholic, he has struggled with hunger and spent many uncomfortable, sleepless nights outdoors. 

However, he discovered a light at the end of the tunnel three years ago, a job that provides enough for food and shelter. 

“My home can be a nice hostel one day, another day under a bridge, another day a hotel, it truly changes depending on how I feel and what I can afford,” he says in Spanish. 

Méndez, who is 70, left Cuba when he was 16. 

After decades of struggle, he makes money every day based on what he sells, something he is unfamiliar with. 

“I used to go days without eating much to save money for another meal,” he says. “What most concerned me was the uncertainty of not knowing how I would survive from one day to the next, but I believed I would find a way.” 

Méndez is one of 15 employees who sell roses for Gaby Flowers, which imports flowers from Colombia and Ecuador and provides roses for street sellers and florists in Miami, Doral and Miami Lakes. 

Gaby provides $200 worth of roses to Méndez each day. He sells each bouquet for $10 and keeps $4. Monday through Friday, he can sell 25 bouquets and keep about $100; on weekends he can sell 35 a day, keeping about $140, or about $780 a week. Enough to pay for food, drink and rooms that can cost up to $75 a night. 

“I have known Ramon for over 20 years,” says Gabriela Zelaya, owner of Gaby Flowers. “Due to life hardships and personal choices, Ramon is homeless and often lives day-by-day. I have been providing roses for him for over three years now and he makes a living where he can ensure a meal every day.” 

Customers worry about Méndez, but he tells them it is the life he chose. 

“Many people think of me as another homeless with no ambition, but I have worked a 9-to-5 job before, and I had savings and stability, but I was unhappy with my life,” he says. “I disliked having a boss who would undermine me and think of me as less. I am now in charge of my time, living and life and I would not want it any other way. I am happy with my living situation, and I am happy with the person I am today.” 

Every morning, Méndez hits the streets, bouquets of roses in hand. He approaches cars with a simple request: please buy a rose. 

Méndez sells 8 roses for $10. (Nayeli Membreno / Caplin News)

His voice is rough, and his clothes are worn, but there’s a sincerity in his eyes that’s hard to ignore. 

He’s not just selling flowers; he’s trying to make ends meet in a tough world. 

“Some days I can sell 30 bouquets and other days only 20. There is no guarantee how much you will make but there is a guarantee you will make money” says Méndez. 

By working in the same locations, Méndez has created a stable clientele who buy from him. 

“I have been buying flowers from Ramon for over a year now, I always know he is here selling, whether it is a hot summer day or a rainy cold day,” says Tania Paz. “I choose to buy roses from him rather than a Publix because I can see the hard work he puts in, and I appreciate the life lessons he always shares with me.” 

It’s not an easy life. 

Méndez faces rejection and hardship every day. But he keeps going, driven by a stubborn determination to make it through another day. 

He knows that every rose he sells puts food in his stomach and a roof over his head, even if it’s only for another night. 

“It is now easier compared to how it used to be,” he says. “I used to go days without eating much to save money for another meal. What most concerned me was the uncertainty of not knowing how I would survive from one day to the next, but I believed I would find a way.” 

There’s no poetry in Méndez’s life, no romance. It’s a gritty, sometimes harsh existence that most people would never choose. 

But he’s proof that even in the darkest of times, there’s still a flicker of hope, a chance to make it through to the other side. 

Look at the man behind the decrepit visage, the one battling against the odds in a world that doesn’t favor him. 

And maybe purchase a rose.

Nayeli Membreno is a journalism and communication major with a minor in English. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, but with Argentinian roots, she brings a multicultural perspective to work. She is passionate about storytelling and enjoys keeping people informed through her writing. Her goal is to share stories, uncover the truth, and give a voice to those who need to be heard.