Eric Thompson-Bey’s Street Sense Experience | Stone Soup Films
Street Sense has been changing the story of homelessness in our community since 2003. We offer economic opportunities to people experiencing homelessness through media that elevates voices and encourages debate on poverty and injustice. Our innovative approach harnesses the talents, aspirations and hard work of men and women who are homeless. At Street Sense we define ourselves through our work, talents and character, not through our housing situation.
We began as a Washington, D.C.-based 16-page biweekly street newspaper. Its mission is to offer economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness in our community by elevating voices and encouraging debate on poverty and injustice.
The newspaper features news, editorials, poems and art about homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. About 50 percent of the paper is written by homeless and formerly homeless individuals and the other articles come from our staff and volunteers, who include journalists, students, advocates and a wide variety of other professionals.
Street Sense vendors pay 50 cents for each paper to cover publishing costs and then distribute each paper for a suggested donation of $2. Street Sense maintains about 100 active vendors, selling 16,000 papers every other week, with the average vendor earning $45 a day. Vendors choose their own sales locations, and can be found in downtown D.C. and some suburbs on busy corners and near Metro stations, usually during the lunch and evening rush hours.
Nearly all vendors report a marked improvement in their lives since starting the paper. Such changes include reconnecting with family, developing their writing and communication skills, or simply gaining a sense of pride and self-respect. Street Sense not only offers its vendors a newspaper to sell, but also connects them to other service providers to meet their needs, including finding housing, accessing healthcare or enrolling them in financial management or job training classes.
Street Sense is one of about 20 street papers in the United States and more than 90 worldwide. Street papers drastically vary in size and circulation but produce social-issue focused newspapers sold by vendors who make an income on newspaper sales. For more information on other street newspapers or background on street papers in general, visit www.street-papers.org
Street Sense was founded in August 2003 after two volunteers, Laura Thompson-Osuri and Ted Henson, approached the National Coalition for the Homeless on separate occasions about starting a street newspaper in Washington, D.C.
After bringing together a core of dedicated volunteers and vendors, Street Sense published its first issue in November 2003 with a print run of 5,000 copies. The paper has published consistently on a monthly and now biweekly basis and has greatly expanded its circulation and vendor network. It now sells nearly 16,000 papers every two weeks.