My experience working with Street Sense Media has been wonderful. I started out on a low path and had no experience writing for a newspaper, but I had some lessons from school about poetry and writing. Also I am an activist, so I joined Street Sense Media and started participating in their poetry, writing and photography classes.
I ended up getting hired for a staff position but I eventually quit. It was still a great experience.
But I have an opinion about the recent changes I am seeing here. I think that we vendors all deserve credit for our writing. But at the same time, there are people who go to our workshops and don’t put much effort into their writing or into our other groups. And we vendors receive free papers for participating in these groups, though this is now changing.
Instead of working hard individually, I think we should show each other that we can work together. I see vendors standing solo on street corners. We should be able to be on each other’s side and offer to take sides of the corners together. We could even partner up and keep each other safe and help each other. I think the hard workers should be recognized. Of course we all deserve to get papers for free for our work, but I think they should not just be given to us. They should be rewarded to us for the work we actually do, and not just handed to us for sitting around the building.
I also think we need more financial help for those of us working with Street Sense Media that have no jobs, and are homeless or very poor.
I respect the work that Street Sense Media puts in for us and I think we should work together and support each other and not fight amongst each other. I don’t think it is a competition. It’s about co-workers getting along, working to support ending homelessness even if we are not homeless ourselves. We are activists and that is how it should be.
Now, we recently changed from getting 10 papers for participating in workshops and being able to trade in papers every week to getting five papers per group and trading our papers biweekly. I think it is fair to try and save the paper money and to think about Street Sense’s financial sustainability. But at the same time, some of us don’t have jobs or homes. And the paper is our one source of income. The only way we make money is through selling the paper. And we use this money to buy more papers, and take whatever is left over for food, etc. I think the change to biweekly puts an added strain on homeless, jobless vendors. On the other hand, going bi-weekly does give us more time to sell off all of our papers, and we will likely waste less papers. But at the same time, we will need to sell more of them.
Amina Washington is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.