Our Vendors 

About StreetWise

Agency Mission

To empower the entrepreneurial spirit through the dignity of self-employment by providing Chicagoans facing homelessness with a combination of supportive social services, workforce development resources and immediate access to gainful employment.

The Vision

StreetWise will provide Chicagoans in need with, “a hand up, not a handout.” To this end, StreetWise will assure that, by giving any person who is willing to work a stable foundation from which they can move themselves out of crisis, no one will find it necessary to beg in order to survive.

In 1991 a group of concerned Chicago business people joined the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to address the growing problem of street homelessness. They wanted to identify a viable pathway for the homeless to move themselves on to personal stability and financial self-sufficiency. The founders recognized that an essential component to a person’s stability was an earned income. They explored a number of workforce options in pursuit of a business model that could provide needy and at-risk individuals with accessible and profitable employment. They knew that employment could not be the only resource available. The founders realized that to achieve true stability those they served would need social service support as well. In 1992, after much research, StreetWise was born, and with it the StreetWise magazine vendor program.

Vendor Jimmy Beckless

Today StreetWise is a workforce development agency designed to help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness out of the crisis of poverty. The StreetWise model combines supportive social services, (focused on employment training; housing placement; and financial literacy) with the opportunity for gainful self-employment, in order to assist clients on the road to stability and self-sufficiency. For close to twenty years StreetWise has allowed individuals in crisis immediate access to a legitimate earned income. From its inception, StreetWise has been a refuge and resource for men and women seeking a dignified means of addressing the crisis of poverty.

StreetWise Magazine: As a publication, StreetWise magazine is socially conscious and Chicago-centric. It raises awareness on the impact of poverty and homelessness in Chicago, across the nation, and around the world. StreetWise is among the largest “street papers” in the United States and serves as a model for street papers across North America. The editorial staff work hard to provide intriguing articles about today’s important issues as well as entertaining articles to enhance the reader’s daily life. By engaging the unemployed and underemployed as vendors, StreetWise is able to personalize the face of Chicago’s poor while, at the same time, providing them with a viable income opportunity.


1. Employment: Provide immediate access to a legitimate earned income for any person willing to work; and provide the training and support necessary to help our clients secure stable long-term employment.
2. Housing: Assure that each client is safely and stably housed; and work to move those clients living on the street or in a homeless shelter into non-shelter based housing as quickly as possible.
3. Financial Literacy: Provide each client with the education and support needed to successfully manage their income and expenses so they can achieve personal/financial stability.

Learn more by visiting these links:
Entrepreneurial Employment & Fiscal Responsibility
Social Service Support
Workforce Resource Center
Respite Services

Streetwise hopes to continue passionately pushing its mission and to decreasing the numbers of individuals living on the streets or in poverty.

The report is available at http://www.heartlandalliance.org/whatwedo/advocacy/reports/2010-report-on-illinois-poverty-final.pdf

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