Have you ever seen a dark and somewhat dingy figure hanging out by the metro link station?
Or perhaps they’ve plunked down at the bus stop?
Now, has that individual tried to get your attention?
Had I just missed my train, I might never have even noticed this woman.
In fact, had I not been chatting away with my classmate on that corner for more than 5 minutes, I probably would not have given her the time of day.
I finally tuned in enough to realize that this woman was trying to sell me something, a legitimate newspaper.
The concept of starting a newspaper business as a job is not new. Somewhat out of fashion now, with the prevalence of the internet, often times having a newspaper route is a young person’s first experience holding a job.
The concept behind papers for the homeless is to “Give a Hand Up”, and not just a hand out. It’s a means of letting people be self employed, independant.
There are a number of newspapers who offer this service around the country:
- Community Connection – Los Angeles, California
- Forgotten Voice – Las Vegas, Nevada
- Denver Voice – Denver, Colorado
- Real Change – Seattle
- Spare Change News – Boston
- Street Pulse – Madison, Wisconsin
- Street Roots – Portland, Oregon
- Street Sense – Washington, DC
- Street Sheet – San Francisco, California
- Street Sights – Providence, Rhode Island
- Street Speech – Columbus, Ohio
- Street Zine – Dallas, Texas
- Streetvibes – Cincinnati
- StreetWise – Chicago
- The Contributor – Nashville
- What’s Up Magazine – St Louis, Missouri
“Vendors”- a person who signs up to sells the newspapers receives the first 10 for free.
The papers generally sell for $1 or other donation per issue, so those first ten papers equal a ten dollar profit.
After that, any other papers they wish to sell cost the vendor twenty five cents, equally a seventy-five cent profit per paper.
And, while that does not seem much to you or I, it offers the individual more than income: it helps restore a sense of pride.
The particular issue I purchased was called Street Zine, which is the Dallas version.
Based out of downtown Dallas, Street Zine is sponsored and supported by Stewpot, a religiously affiliated organization offering shelter, meals, job support, and education for people in crisis or need.
All the papers mentioned above are members of a larger organization called NASNA, or the North American Street Newspaper Association.
Launched in 1996, the organization focuses on offering people a viable outlet out of the ring of poverty, and gives them a voice- many of the articles in the paper deal with homeless issues, raising awareness of this problem in modern society.
I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM:
The danger with homelessness is in how we have a tendency of “objectifying” people- where we no longer look at them as fellow human beings,
We are afraid of them, and what they represent. “There go you and I, but for the grace of God”.
But, relationships across class and cultural lines are built through the simple interaction of purchasing a newspaper. NASNA states that their goal is to get the general public to know the individual on the corner, not as a bum or a drug addict, but as Joe or Jane, and recognizes that individuals on the streets are no different than themselves.
These are people who love, laugh, cry, feel sadness, and have similar interests to anyone of us.
Once we “step out of our comfort zone”, and buy one of their papers, the individual on the streets recognizes that being homeless doesn’t mean becoming a victim, but instead that they to belong to a community. Their hopes, dreams and opinions matter, just like all of us.
So, next time someone is trying to get your attention on the corner, offering to sell you a paper, BUY ONE, like I did. And help a person out.
- Lindsey O’Neill: Spare Change? The Elective Interdepence Of City Life (huffingtonpost.com)
- A Peak at Street Sheets (brainsections.wordpress.com)
- Homeless and Poor People Targeted Again (streetsheetsf.wordpress.com)
- Identifying Homelessness (debra-r-borys.com)
- World Homeless Day in San Francisco (indybay.org)
- Faces without Places helps homeless children achieve academic success (streetvibes.wordpress.com)
- Nowhere to run: Homeless offered little aid in wake of Hurricane Sandy (rt.com)