HERO CENTRAL: Street Sense, A Job For The Homeless

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- On bustling downtown sidewalks, homeless men and women wave newspapers published by Street Sense.

The non-profit organization gives the District's homeless a way to earn money. Founded in 2003 Street Sense trains the homeless to work as newspaper vendors.

The newspaper is a 16-page, bi-weekly newspaper. Readers can find articles on the homeless, poverty, local politics and poetry.

James Davis was one of the first vendors for Street Sense. He said he was homeless after a job loss, divorce and depression. Founders of the organization approached him about selling the newspaper when he was staying at a homeless shelter in the District.

Selling newspapers serves as an alternative to panhandling, according to Executive Director, Brian Carome.

The homeless can reconnect with the community, have a routine and move on with their lives.

"This time, they get an opportunity to sell a valuable product that people appreciate and that people are willing to pay for," Carome said.

Streets Sense sells each paper to vendors for 35 cents. Vendors sell the paper for a $1 and keep what they earn.

This small but feasible concept has turned around the lives for people like Davis. He sold about 1,000 papers a month as a vendor between 18th and L Streets.

"You become part of the community once you go out there and sell a paper," said Davis.

"Once you become known to the people that you sell a paper to, that's your customer base."

By working as a vendor, Davis met new people in the area and eventually acquired a more stable job at a camera store.

"The beauty about what we do, is that relationship that develops between the vendors and their customers," said Carome.

Nine years since he first began with Street Sense, Davis now works for a contractor and speaks on behalf of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Still he continues to work with Street Sense. Davis is a part-time vendor and serves as a Vendor Advisory Team Member.

"Homelessness...it doesn't discriminate," said Davis.

"When you see that vendor out there trying to make a living or trying to get back on his feet from a situation that caused him to become homeless, just remember, it could happen to you. So just give from the heart."

NOTE: Gannett Foundation has provided a donation to Street Sense.

Produced by: Elizabeth Jia


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