Day 165: Word on the Street

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June 13, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

If you’ve spent time in just about any major city, chances are good that you’ve caught a glimpse of what has become a crisis of homelessness.  The unfortunate truth is that homelessness is by no means limited to within major cities – even some of the most affluent districts in the nation are coping with rising rates of homeless students, and often homeless parents behind them.  It’s easy to overlook.  Many without homes want not to be recognized, while many of those with homes want not to recognize the issue at all.  It’s an ugly issue, and one with immense stigmas in tow.  Homelessness is not the result of any single failure or flaw, personal or systemic, and is instead a symptom following a string of compounding tragedies.  There’s much that can be done to help end homelessness from the outside – much that the “haves” can give to the “have-nots” – but it’s hard not to admire the effort of those with the least to give to pull themselves up, working everyday to help support themselves and overcome a struggle that most of us are fortunate not to face.  Odd jobs are still jobs that need doing, and I feel far more helpful when putting a dollar in the hand of a man or woman working actively to surmount poverty than in the hand of one apparently without hope.  I think that sort of hope goes a long way, and it’s worth supporting.  Today’s project recognizes this hope, and is innovating a way forward for the untold thousands working their way out of life on the streets, one street at a time.

The Digital Street Paper is a new take on an old idea.  Thousands of homeless people around the world rely on newspaper sales to earn a living, but changing times call for changing actions, and the advent of digital news threatens to drive paper sales down and endangers the occupation of the most vulnerable among us.  With a new format, though, The Digital Street Paper promises to sustain this critical tradition through adaptation, innovation, and an eye on the future.

With 6 million readers globally and more than 12,000 vendors on street corners around the world right now, this project has the potential to become not only one of the world’s largest paid digital media platforms, but one of the most important too.

Until today, I really had no idea how important street papers were to so many people.  I had, of course, seen vendors in New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston streets, but never really understood the depth of the business.  Behind each vendor is an inspired team of organizers, creating opportunity, dignity and news.  Now that we’re spending less time flipping paper pages and more time scrolling through little screens, preserving the support system that news vending provides requires innovation to benefit both sides of the equation.  I dig the new approach and I’m glad that this project has exceeded its funding goal.  Join me in pushing it further, to help people helping other people help themselves, by giving your support on Kickstarter within the next 18 hours.


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