You want to know what makes people care about homelessness? It probably won’t surprise you: proximity.
People who know homeless people and have regular interactions with them are more likely to get involved and help. That’s because they see the suffering firsthand and come to care deeply about the people they meet.
Because of this, they are also less likely to buy into the harmful stereotypes that lead to social isolation, or support laws that pose as solutions while merely criminalizing poverty.
Over and over, our vendors have told me that the hardest part of being homeless is when people act like they’re not even there. When no one recognizes your value, you stop believing in it yourself.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make those connections. If you’re reading this, you already know. Maybe you can help us spread the word.
This Feb. 5 through 11, papers like Real Change across the globe are uniting under #VendorWeek. There are events in Portland, Seattle, Denver and Vancouver. There are events in London, Manchester and Salford. There are events in Sydney and Melbourne. And in Sweden, Germany and Japan.
Here in Seattle, local personalities including comedian Brett Hamil, KCTS news anchor Enrique Cerna and Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant are joining vendors in Westlake Park to experience selling Real Change and support the more than 300 vendors who sell our paper each month.
For nearly three decades, street papers have offered an immediate means for people to directly help those working to help themselves.
Internationally, more than 100 member papers of INSP (the International Network of Street Papers) published in 24 languages across 36 countries.
Papers like Shedia in Athens, Greece. Factum in Gothenburg, Sweden. Mi Valedor in Mexico City. Zebra in Italy.
Last year alone, about 21,000 street-paper vendors sold 24 million papers, putting about $30 million in the pockets of homeless and low-income vendors.
All over the world, street papers are a way for people to regularly connect with those who struggle to survive. Who are recognized as valued community members. Who earn money while they build bridges and engage the broader public in solutions to poverty and homelessness.
Here are a few things you can do to support Real Change during #VendorWeek.
Come to Westlake Park on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., to join us in celebrating our vendors. Local celebrities will be paired with vendors to sell the paper for an hour and help others learn about our amazing street sellers.
Tweet, Facebook and Instagram your support all week. Take a selfie with your favorite vendor and write a sentence or two about why you buy Real Change. Mark it #VendorWeek and you might get a free Real Change Resist T-shirt out of the deal. But don’t do it for the T-shirt. Do it because you’re awesome and love supporting our vendors.
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter and never miss an event. This is as easy as going to our organizational website to join our mailing list.
Post news that matters from the news side of our website (realchangenews.org) to your social media. Every Wednesday, we post the issue on our news site. Real Change doesn’t just help our vendors by providing opportunity and a voice. We are an award-winning newspaper that earns our loyal readership every day. Not everyone knows that. That’s why we’re online too. You can help spread the word.
Download Venmo and find out how easy a cashless Real Change purchase can be. Venmo is a free app designed to make simple and secure person-to-person money transfers. Once you’ve set up your preferred payment method, search for @Real-Change. When you buy a paper, all you have to do is click, enter the dollar amount, put your vendor name and ID in notes, and press pay. It takes just seconds and the money goes into your vendor’s Real Change account within 24 hours.
Small acts, over time, can lead to big changes. Thank you from our vendors, and all of us here at Real Change.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full Feb. 7 - Feb. 13 issue.