Conference Benefits Streets Vendors

by Marsha Rizzo Swanson

        The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Brian Davis, the editor of the Homeless Grapevine along with Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland had made it possible for me to go to the North American Street Newspaper Association Conference. I really enjoyed the trip, and I had learned a great deal.       

             I talked on the first day to one a young man named Tim. He is a real nice guy and I learned that he is homeless man and also that he had a lot of compassion. He lives on the streets of San Francisco. I do not believe that this young man does not deserve this kind of life. Where is our humanity and our government for Tim? There are many in San Francisco who are homeless and the government of San Francisco is only developing laws to make it illegal to be homeless. We will get back to this young man who is really having a hard time with his life and he makes the best of it.    

          I do not believe any of our government officials could survive what Tim has been through. They would not survive the way Tim has survived with dignity and strength.  Here is a man that eats out of garbage, and it sure is not steak that he is finding.

           When I was in San Francisco, I saw that the homeless problem was larger then the problem in Cleveland.  I Saw it on every street corner of this tourist city and did get to see the women’s shelter.  I met the radical Food Not Bombs, but I did not get to see a coup line.  I can’t say the number of hungry people, but there were tons of people sleeping on the street.

           I did not know that when I went to San Francisco that it was such a learning experience.  I found out a great deal in the workshop called “street journalism.”  I see why there are so many homeless people.  I saw that journalism is fancy and it needs to be created like art.  I learned that the purpose of journalism is to not lie to our people and to tell the truth about the things that are going on the streets.  This is not what I realize before I attended the conference.  I learned that reporters coming out of journalism school will sometimes exaggerate their stories or will not report on what is happening to the homeless, because it is not what their editors want to hear.

           I want to be one of those people who goes into the high schools and the colleges to teach our nation’s children what is really going on, especially with regard to homeless people.  I want to reach children what they need to know to avoid being homeless.

          I learned a lot of what is going on in this so-called USA.  I sold 63 Grapevine papers in San Francisco as part of the North American Vend Off II, and won the trip for next year’s conference in Boston.  I enjoyed the Vend Off.  It was fun.  Believe it or not, I was scared, but I did the sales anyway.  They told us that we could be arrested if we sold the papers in San Francisco.  Only the San Francisco paper could be sole because it had no ads and no price on the cover.  Brian told me that NASNA would cover any tickets they framed the ticket and hung in the Grapevine office as a trophy.

             In 2000, a man named Terry from Calgary Street Talk won the Vend Off.  I got to know him and I really like him.  He is a great guy.  I talked with him about how he had been in the streets and he is doing very well.  I know that there are a lot like Terry that are out there and need help but are not as strong as Terry is. 

             The need is there a so the fight is still on finding a way to help the homeless.  We will not be done until the fat lady sings.  I will protest until I can’t work anymore.  We did attend a protest against the big newspaper.  I joined the protest to tell them about the homeless people that I know.  I was there and I won’t forget where I came from.  I feel that people need to be heard and not shout down.  Homeless people should not be pushed around like a bouncing ball, which happens in San Francisco.  If you want people to respond to you and respect you then you need to respect the homeless in the same way.

             I also learned that homeless people don’t get the respect they should get.  At the shelters, they do not give the respect to the homeless the way that they should.  Many choose not to stay in the shelters, and then they are on the streets.  I always hear people say, “But there are shelters for homeless people.”  I don’t think that they realize that some of the shelters are worthless.  They treat people like dogs.  Do you get the picture?  If not think about it and go check it out for yourself.

             I also hear people say, “I will never be homeless.”  Well, that’s not always true and it can happen to anyone.  Never say never, because you never know when illness, tragedy or job loss is going to happen.

             One of the things I learned at N.A.S.N.A. conference was that they shared an Internet site about homelessness.  This is so people can be heard on the Internet.  Issues put on the Internet will give homeless people some freedom of speech and submissions can be done at libraries.  And there was also an effort that should allow for everyone to use the free computers.

             I also listened to a man at the N.A.S. A. Conference speak about the need to do a fundraiser to work toward getting more outreach in the community.  I went on the independent media center’s website in San Francisco.  They even put a picture of me on the Internet plus one of me in my cow outfit.  I dressed as a cow in the Vend Off and took to the streets.  It was a great feeling.  I made history for our Homeless Grapevine.  I think that this is what is needed for Cleveland Ohio.

             I’m proud to be a Homeless Grapevine vender through NEOCH.  I did learn about the truth and we need homeless to be heard in the community.  We need the homeless to be heard.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #49 August-Septembe-2001