Street Sense: Making Dollars & Cents for the Homeless


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photo, flickr.com

In the busy streets of downtown Washington, D.C, there is the couple, with their two small children, exiting the Kellari Taverna, where they must have just finished enjoying a sumptuous meal, while they dined in sophisticated ambience. At the same time, the smartly dressed guy jumps into his Maserati and speeds off; the tall and elegant corporate-looking woman hurries by, perhaps on her way to a high-profile meeting with CEO’s and Directors at the round table. She glances at her watch as she quickened her steps, not looking elsewhere, perhaps too busy to care that there is a man or woman, homeless on the streets. Passion and sadness gripped my heart all at once! I swallowed, “gulped”, to clear the huge lump that wells up in my throat every time I see man, woman or child, begging or sleeping on the streets, of whichever country or state I visit. Tears well up in my eyes ever so often. Sometimes, I turn my face to the other side, just so I wouldn’t have to bear witness to their plight.

A few blocks away, I passed two men, dressed in rugged, tattered clothing, selling newspapers. They wore a neon green vest that read “STREET SENSE.” I smiled. I’ve read about Street Sense before and concluded it was a grand initiative aimed at putting money in the pockets of homeless persons in the D.C area. I wanted to help, so I grabbed the last change I had in my purse and donated it to one of the Street Sense Newspaper vendors. A man who had passed by hurriedly saw when I stopped to give, and he turned back, giving his “two cents.” Maybe he would have continued about his business hadn’t I stopped. Maybe something jolted him when I did give, or maybe not, who knows….but I was nonetheless happy for the vendor who got a an extra donation at that instant!

I didn’t want to buy the newspaper, so I told him to keep it and sell it to someone else. I just wanted to make a contribution, in some way. He still gave me one from last month’s issue to read. I said “thank you,” then bid him a great weekend. Even if it’s just a dollar, (suggested donation by Street Sense), stop and give your donation or buy the papers. It will go a far way in providing much needed resources for these less fortunate people. They chose to be employed rather than to steal or sell drugs, or even panhandle. That counts, right?

You must know that these now homeless people are people like you and me, some coming from good homes and good jobs, but whom, due to hardships woke up one day to homelessness. Homelessness can come upon any of us, so don’t turn up your nose next time you see the “Street Sense-rs”.

Not only do they sell papers, some of them, the more talented ones,  get involved in the writing, layout and production. 

The Work of Street Sense

With its focus on poverty alleviation, Street Sense aims to create economic opportunities for homeless people. By making “vendors” of the homeless, Street Sense affords them a way to earn money by selling the Street Sense Newspaper. When you buy a newspaper from these vendors, 65% of the money you pay goes to the vendor and the remaining 35% towards the production of the newspaper. Faced with potential extinction, due to the advent of technology and the convenience of reading the news online, Street Sense still perseveres, even as “one of the only remaining physical newspapers in town that people still buy.” (Tim Young, Volunteer, Street Sense)

About 28 street paper agencies operate in the United States and Canada, in places like Seattle, Chicago. Montreal and Boston, and dozens more exist throughout the world.

Street Sense began in August 2003, after two volunteers, Laura Thompson Osuri and Ted Henson, approached the National Coalition for the Homeless about starting a street newspaper initiative in Washington, D.C. By January 2010, the paper had 72 active vendors and prints about 30,000 issues per month.

Get involved as a sponsor or donor, or as a volunteer. Visit www.streetsense.org and start making a difference in the lives of people who need you. Why? Because every homeless person has a name, a story and a hope for something better.”

Donate to online at www.streetsense.org or make check payable to “Street Sense” and mail to 1317 G Street NW Washington, D.C 20005

Keep up the good work Street Sense! And to you, thank you for supporting a worthy cause.

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