The vendors at StreetWise magazine were happy to hear from our new friends at Prosto Neba, a street paper in Lviv, western Ukraine. We made a list of questions as a group and we sent them to our friends in Lviv with some information that we thought might be of interest:
1. Are there any black people in Ukraine?
2. What variety of ethnic groups are there in Ukraine?
3. How many vendors have been able to use selling your magazine as a stepping stone to other employment?
4. What kind of changes in your living conditions have resulted from selling the magazine Prosto Neba?
5. Do you have social workers in your community?
6. What kind of other help or support services are available at your magazine or in the community center?
7. One of your writers mentioned God. Is you organization affiliated with a religion?
8. How long has it been legal to participate in religious organizations of personal choice in Ukraine?
9. Do you get paid for your work at your shelter?
10. Do all of the jobs have the same pay? Are some more popular and harder to get than others?
11. Are families separated in your shelters?
12. Is safety an issue at your shelter or in shelters in general in Ukraine?
We thought you might like to know where the StreetWise vendors live. Most of the vendors visiting our group today live in small apartments or hotel rooms that are inexpensive or are subsidized by the government.
Some of the vendors had help finding housing from people who work at the StreetWise organization. Most of the vendors have moved often. Very few have had stable housing for many years.
Selling StreetWise magazine helps with the cost of housing. Most of our vendors have to patch together services to secure housing and food. Sales of the magazine is usually not enough to cover all living costs. It is also not dependable enough (due to extreme weather conditions and other unpredictable variables) to rely on as a sole means of support. The magazine does offer real employment and the chance to learn sales skills and responsibility.Vendors also build community and have access to many social services, food, and educational opportunities as a result of their relationship with the StreetWise organization.
Vendors who live in one of the hotels in the area share a bathroom with an entire floor of up to 80 people. They do not have their own kitchen and really just have room for a bed in their personal living space.
Vendors use the money they earn at StreetWise in different ways. Some need to use the income to pay for food. Others need it to pay for housing. Some vendors get disability checks that help with food, medicine or housing. All of them need the money they earn at StreetWise to make ends meet… to cover the gap between not having enough to live on and meeting basic cost of living in the Chicago area.
Some of the vendors at StreetWise do live in shelters. They complain about safety, privacy, pests and vermin, freedom to practice or the freedom not to practice religion if the shelter is run by a church.
Some of the vendors live on the Street when the weather is decent because they refuse to live by shelter rules and some of these vendors cannot afford to pay for housing at all.
We all look forward to hearing from you again soon.
We have had a long cold winter in Chicago this year. Best wishes for a mild spring and a safe, peaceful and happy 2014.