Ending our 20th year

This issue is the first of our 21st year of publication. The small but ambitious nonprofit organization started by a group of young volunteers in 2003 has survived its way into adulthood. There have been many struggles along the way, including this year, when a budget shortfall forced us to return to biweekly publication and eliminate more than a third of our staff. This milestone is cause for both celebration and disappointment.

We celebrate being one of the longest operating street papers in the world. And we are proud that we have provided employment and other opportunities to over 700 vendors over these last 20 years — offering them a job, powerful means of self-expression, a chance to build a supportive community around themselves and case management support to help them navigate to greater stability. We celebrate all of our vendors who have fought and won their battle with homelessness and now know the great stability of a place to call home. We’re proud of a newsroom that annually captures awards for its original reporting. We’re proud of an internship program that has launched the careers of hundreds of journalists over the years. We celebrate and are grateful for you, our loyal customers and readers who have been an essential part of this journey.

Looking ahead, we are committed to the men and women we serve and to the highest standards of journalism. We enter our third decade quite a bit leaner than we were a year ago, full of concerns about our financial health, but driven by the knowledge that our work and mission are as relevant as ever.

And there lies our disappointment. Homelessness is as much, if not more of a problem today than it was in 2003 when we first started publishing. The number of people who are homeless in the District is on the rise again. And along the way these past 20 years, we have lost so many of our vendor colleagues to the scourge of homelessness. We know firsthand how life on the streets dramatically shortens lives.

At Street Sense Media, we believe that housing is a human right. That in a nation of such great wealth, there is no reason why anyone should have to sleep outside. That homelessness is reflective of societal, not personal failures. And that the right kind of political courage and investment can ensure that homelessness is both short in duration and infrequent.

As always, we publish this paper to help shape understanding about this issue and the people it affects most harshly. We do so with the belief that a more informed citizenry will be more likely to demand and support initiatives that address homelessness. We thank you for purchasing this paper from one of our vendors, and in so doing helping to make ours a better community

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.