By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman
Street newspapers were created to give a voice to the homeless and low income community. It is a way for the poor to show the higher income members of society that homeless and low income people are not always addicts or lazy people. They have talents and special skills, but they don’t always have the same resources that is necessary to live a stable life. Street newspapers also give people who made bad choices in life a chance to explain why they did the things they did or what they learned from their experiences and how they changed for the better.
Street newspapers are usually published by an organization that provides a service to homeless people. The Cleveland Street Chronicle is published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). The set up of street newspapers usually require a person to sign up and be trained on how to sell the paper. Each person must follow a set of rules in order to become a vendor and each new vendor is given a few free papers to start out with. Each vendor is required to pay a small amount for each paper and sell it for a higher price. We pay 35 cents per paper and sell it for $1.25. Everything over the 35 cents is ours to keep. Street newspapers are a great way for people to help a person in need directly and a great way for a person to earn an honest income for themselves. Street newspapers were originally created for homeless people in general but many have now included formally homeless people and anyone who is in danger of becoming homeless. This can include people with criminal records, people with mild developmental disabilities who are too advanced for sheltered employment, those who have mental illnesses and learning difficulties or those who struggle with standard employment.
Street newspapers do more than just give a person a job. Some people become a vendor as a temporary source of income. It is something for them to do to earn an income between jobs and something that they can add to their resume instead of leaving an empty gap. Being a vendor also allows a person to connect with resources and people who can help them find a better job or opportunity. Sometimes it can help a formally homeless person raise the money they need in order to start their own business venture.
Street newspapers are extremely important for those who struggle with standard employment because many times they have some type of differences that make them stick out from their typical functioning peers which can sometimes make their peers reject them or look down on them. A lot of people who struggle with getting and keeping a job may also lack social skills that society finds appropriate. When a person sells a street newspaper they are forced to interact with people and over a period of time many improve their social and communication skills.
Street newspapers can also change people’s lives for the better. People who were abused or neglected may view people in a negative way but as they sell the paper they will meet a lot of people who are caring and compassionate and will learn that all people are not bad. Some people will sell the paper in order to get money to get high, but one of the requirements is that in order for a person to sell the paper they must be sober. Then when a person stays sober long enough to earn an income for themselves, many times they learn that they no longer need to be intoxicated to deal with the world. A lot of times the kindness and compassion they see and hear from their customers is what helps them to live sober lives.
Street newspapers can have a positive effect on America. If young adults who just aged out of the foster care system were told to consider becoming a vendor of a street newspaper, fewer young women would sell their bodies if they struggled to find work and fewer young men would sell drugs or commit crimes when they can’t find work. Many of these young people wouldn’t feel a need to get involved with a mate or others that they don’t really want to deal with in order to get a place to live. If a person who was just released from jail or prison were told to consider becoming a vendor of a street newspaper they would be less likely to steal something, rob someone or commit another crime because they need money and can’t get a job. These people could sell the paper, learn job skills, sharpen their social and communication skills and earn an honest income for themselves.
The most important thing that street newspapers do for its vendors is help them build relationships with others. Many times homeless or formerly homeless people deal with feelings of loneliness and some may lack family and close friends. Once they become a vendor sometimes a person becomes friends with the other vendors. A lot of times the vendor builds a relationship with their customers. Many customers enjoy listening to or reading about things that a homeless person has to say in the paper. Many times it makes a customer feels good watching how the vendor is growing or advancing in their lives. As the vendor sees how proud their customers are of their accomplishments, it helps them to take more pride in themselves.
The organizations that publish street newspapers do a lot to keep the paper going and the vendors work hard to get them into people’s hands. As a customer keep in mind that street newspapers are a good way for a person to earn an honest income for themselves, but many times kind words, a friendly smile or a little compassion can mean more to the vendor than the dollar or two that you give. Street newspapers are about more than just earning an income, it’s also about changing a life and building relationships.
Copytright Cleveland Street Chronicle Cleveland Ohio October 2012 NEOCH