It's summer fund drive time, and more than you know is at stake. Declines in emergency service availability and an economy on the ropes have driven our vendor numbers -- up more than 41 percent since the beginning of 2007 -- through the roof. We're seeing higher levels of need, more desperation, and an increasingly inadequate human service response.
Two vendor staff and two national service interns serve more than 350 Real Change vendors each month. They are, in a word, overwhelmed.
The circulation of our award-winning community newspaper is at its highest ever and rising, with 16,000-18,000 copies sold each week. Real Change journalist Rosette Royale won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award from the national Society of Professional Journalists this month for "The Man who Stood on the Bridge," a masterful 15,000-word investigation into suicide and system failure.
We publish the sort of adventurous quality journalism that is found nowhere else in Seattle. Last year, we won three SPJ awards. People are coming to recognize and depend upon Real Change as a necessary news source in a one-newspaper town. Our newspaper is produced by just two part-time journalists, an editor and a raft of dedicated volunteers.
Rosette manages to get his journalism in while doubling as our newspaper production staff. This is how things are around here. No one does just one job.
We're well past the point of this being a strength.
And then, there's the organizing.
Real Change consistently stands up for those who have nothing. When the mayor started his program of homeless campsite sweeps last year to improve the sightlines of downtown condo dwellers, Real Change was the first to sound the alarm. We kept the heat on high and held the city accountable.
Now, we're fighting the proposed new city jail. Our Initiative 100 campaign is changing the landscape on this issue by building power from the ground up. The city's $226 million dollar monument to wasted lives and structural racism no longer seems nearly so inevitable.
We're doing all of this with just one dedicated organizing position and a national service intern.
We provide opportunity and meaningful community for more than 350 vendors a month, publish a quality weekly newspaper, and do kick-ass community organizing on about $630,000 a year.
How do we do it? Truth is, we really can't.
Rising vendor numbers and an ambitious organizing agenda have pushed our staff to the breaking point, and things are held together with rubber cement and baling wire. Meanwhile, the demands are only growing more intense. The stopgap solutions aren't really holding anymore. Something, somewhere, has to give.
We're hoping it will be you.
Real Change depends upon a broad base of grassroots supporters for more than half of our income. Most of the rest comes through paper sales. Our grassroots support allows Real Change to take the organizing risks that government and foundation-funded organizations often cannot.
We get out front and offer cover for others to come in behind. Together, we are building the movement for civil rights and economic justice that we all need. That's what we do. It matters a lot, and we can't do it without you.
We anticipate that things will become worse before they improve. Budget deficits at all levels of government will continue into at least next year and probably longer.
We can't allow these budgets to be balanced on the backs of the poor. The poor, the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicted, are already being failed on a massive scale.
Since Real Change began in 1994, we've seen homelessness in Seattle double. We've seen the city ramp up to put people first, and we've seen them back off when times get hard. As the desperation rises and the lives of the most poor become increasingly harsh, we've been assured that homelessness is being ended.
The numbers say differently. Last year saw an 18 percent increase in homelessness. This year, the 2,826 homeless people who were counted on January 30 as unserved by the emergency shelter system represent a 2 percent increase over last year. But the news in this year's count was the explosion of homelessness by 68 percent in south King County. The Mayor's homeless sweeps have only pushed people out further, making the poor and desperate harder to find.
City policies on poverty and homelessness should, at minimum, do no harm. The common good needs to be served. Stories have to be told. Power must be built from the bottom. Power at the top needs to be held accountable.
Real Change is in the fight. Our choice is to grow to meet the demand, or to cut back on what we do. Please help us to make the better choice.
Real Change is caught between the realities of rising vendor numbers and need, intense demand for our leading activist role on issues of survival, and the realities of fundraising in an uncertain and stressed environment. Our work has never been more important, nor the need for your support so great.
Please support our work however you can. We are making an immediate difference in real people's lives. We are effective leaders in a growing and desperately important movement for fundamental change.
We need you at our side, making what we do possible, helping us do the work as well as we possibly can. You can make a secure donation at realchangenews.org, our new website, or mail your gift to Real Change, 2129 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121. Thank you for your support.