Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Could This Be The End of Streetwise?

Are you familiar with Streetwise?

Streetwise is a local newspaper that is written and sold by homeless people in Chicago. What I love about it is that it helps people help themselves. The 200 vendors purchase the weekly paper for 75 cents per issue and then turn around and sell it for $2. They pocket the difference. Of course, they have to have a city permit to do this. And for its part, Streetwise provides job training and helps people get on their feet. Earning money by working helps give people a sense of worth and it's helped thousands of people get off the streets.

When I'm in the city, I always buy Streetwise and I feel good about helping the vendor.

I first encountered Streetwise in the fall of 1992, when I lived in Chicago as part of the Urban Studies off-campus program in college. At the time, Streetwise cost $1 and came out monthly. Even though it only came out monthly, I usually bought it a couple of times a week from different vendors because I loved how it directly helped people help themselves. Even when I moved back to Lake Forest to finish college and then moved to Washington DC after graduation, every time I would return to Chicago, I would take some extra cash to buy Streetwise.

So it greatly saddens me today to learn that Streetwise may be going under. Sure, there are other newspapers in Chicago - the Tribune, Sun-Times, and the Reader, to name just a few - but in my opinion, Streetwise was never really about the content in the paper itself anyway. It has always been about getting people off the streets, giving them job skills, helping them build a track record of holding a job, learning to budget, and ultimately becoming self-sufficient. The paper was just the vehicle to do that.

There's talk of help coming from the Chicago City Council, all the TV stations have been running stories in hopes that the public will rise to the occasion and grant money will arrive. I hope this happens. Streetwise is the perfect program to receive help.

Here's the Chicago Tribune story from earlier today. Click here to watch the video.

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