19 June 2007

Helping the Homeless

If you're like me (and some of you are I just know it), you're a bit hesitant to give a homeless person money. When approached by a panhandler, you may ask yourself, "What will they use this money for - liquor, drugs, food?" It's a valid question and one I have asked myself every time before giving a homeless person money.

Today I came across a homeless person who was asking for money. One dollar to be exact. It's not the first time I've seen him. And it wasn't the first time I gave him money without hesitation. And, he's not the only homeless person out there asking for exactly one dollar.

See, this homeless fellow is a vendor, an entrepreneur, a salesman. He's out there every day (in this case, on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Q Street, NW) giving copies of Street Sense for a dollar donation. (You can give more than a dollar, if you so wish.) Street Sense, for those of you who don't know, is a bi-monthly newspaper written by the area's poor and homeless. It is "sold" by the area's poor and homeless as a way to make some money, as opposed to panhandling. Each person (vendor) is essentially their own company ... an outsourcer, if you will. One quarter of every dollar goes to the publication; the other seventy-five cents go to the vendor. The vendor makes an honest living and the buyer learns a bit about the area's poor and homeless. It's a win-win for everyone.

My point is simply this: if you see someone on the street in a yellow "Street Sense" vest selling Street Sense newspapers for a dollar, do you both a favor and give that person two dollars. He's simply doing his job.

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