Our Vendors 

Take the magazine: Employment vs. Panhandling

Wed, Feb 15, 2012

On occasion I hear from StreetWise customers who encounter an individual “selling” StreetWise Magazine who is actually not an authorized vendor. Whenever I talk to customers about incidents like this I stress the importance of checking to make sure the person with the magazine is wearing a StreetWise identification badge. I also stress another point which is equally as important: take the magazine!

The difference between giving a vendor money and taking the magazine versus giving a vendor money and not taking the magazine is the difference between rewarding employment versus encouraging panhandling.

StreetWise vendors set personal goals for themselves and work hard to achieve those goals by sticking to a plan that is supported by the agency’s social workers. The foundation of the individual plan is based on the vendor’s commitment to utilizing the employment opportunity offered by StreetWise. The agency motto is, “a hand up not a hand out.” By giving our clients a chance to earn an income as a StreetWise vendor, the agency provides a legitimate means for our clients to get themselves back on the road to financial self-sufficiency.

The StreetWise model relies on a sales relationship between the vendor and the customer. At times a customer will tell a vendor to keep the change, or even keep the magazine. The agency does not take a position on tipping, but we do ask customers to always take the magazine. If a customer takes the magazine they are supporting the vendor in a legitimate and dignified business transaction. By not taking the magazine, a customer reduces the vendor to a panhandler. Men and women come to StreetWise because they do not want to turn to panhandling.

I am moved by the number of people who value and support the men and women of StreetWise. The very fact that the vendors are selling StreetWise is an indication that they want to better themselves through employment and not through handouts. It is essential that any person giving money to a StreetWise vendor also take the magazine.

The simple point of this editorial is that sometimes our best charitable intentions can actually work against the person we intend to help. Giving money to vendors without taking the magazine may put money in their pocket, but it can also undermine a vendor’s motivation. The men and women who sell StreetWise want to do just that, sell the magazine. Anything less than a sale can make them feel like a panhandler, which is exactly the kind of behavior they are working to avoid.

I hope you will continue support StreetWise and its vendors by always taking the magazine you have paid for. If you have already purchased a copy of the latest edition but still want to support a vendor, then take another copy and give it to a friend or co-worker who may never have had the chance to read StreetWise. By doing this you not only support the vendor, but you may also create a new StreetWise customer.

By Jim LoBianco
StreetWise Executive Director

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. You are welcome to contact me at either tipline@streetwise.org or (773) 334-6600 (ext. 22).

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