Our Vendors 

New StreetWise Writing Workshop

Thu, Mar 1, 2012

with StreetWise Vendor Linda Carretero”]This past year we have all heard about people losing their jobs and their homes. Some people have a safety net, a next egg, savings, or a family they can count on for help. Others do not.

We observe the crisis as it grows. We read about it in our papers, we watch it on TV, and we witness it in our cities all over our country.

I spent some time in San Francisco this year where homelessness is almost as ubiquitous as fog. About a half hour south of San Francisco, in Palo Alto, there are many homeless people who push all of their bedding and belongings in carts, walking past busy young people talking on cell phones, carrying new computers, yoga mats and paper cups of expensive coffee. I spent several days in Denver where I was surprised by a very young, large and growing homeless population. In Aspen, it was hard to be unfazed by the sight of a homeless man in a thin blanket brushing shoulders with a tourist in a bright red, puffy down jacket.

And in Chicago, with winter approaching, I began to ask myself if there was not something I could do to help the homeless people in my own city. This fall I had extra time for volunteer work because a literacy program I had been working for in North Chicago closed due to lack of funding.

I decided I might like to volunteer in a writing workshop with the vendors who sell StreetWise Magazine. I made an appointment and met with the Executive Director Jim LoBianco, to see if I could help out. Jim told me that there was not a writing program in place. He thought it was a great idea though and asked if I would be willing to build a program from the ground up.

After several visits to the StreetWise building on Broadway and Wilson in Uptown, and much deliberation about whether and how I could be helpful, I decided just to jump in and give the writing workshop a try.

And so, on Mondays, whenever possible, I offer a writing workshop to the vendors at StreetWise. The group is small, but we work hard and I feel sure we will be growing.
The goal is to get the vendors to express themselves in written word and eventually to have their stories published in the magazine that they sell.

The writing workshop is an opportunity for the vendors to get to know each other better and to work closely and supportively in a small group setting. My hope is that you will read their stories and learn that homelessness is their situation, but their stories will tell you who they are.

When you read StreetWise Magazine, you can learn about the many ways the StreetWise organization provides support for the vendors. StreetWise helps them secure jobs, food, health services and shelter. The building offers the vendor a kind of community and refuge. It can be seen in itself as a kind of home.

A surprise for me has been how much I have learned about the organization that I did not know after all these years of buying the magazine.

I have met the dedicated editors, a social worker, and a vendor trainer. There are vendors who have become mediators, vendors who now work for the organization as office managers and office support staff. There are students who volunteer through their universities, and a long time volunteer who gathers donated food. He cooks and runs a kitchen with hot food for the vendors. There is also a volunteer who teaches the vendors computer skills. He helps them set up e-mail accounts and write resumes. And there is the tireless and encouraging executive director, Jim LoBianco, who operates with an open door to his office, and who gave me the support I needed to give this workshop idea a try.

I hope you will support the StreetWise organization and buy the magazine every week. Read the vendors’ stories. The vendors are working hard to change their circumstances and I am grateful to have the opportunity to help them.

Written by Marcie Bearman
StreetWise Contributor

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