13 July 2015

New INSP Website

The new INSP website
INSP has launched a brand new website. Designed to be shareable, flexible, and intuitive, it will be the main port of call for INSP news. All future blog posts will be published on the new website, so please visit using the link below.


5 June 2015

Our vendors: Cyril Mylambiso (The Big Issue South Africa, Cape Town)

When Cyril Mylambiso started selling The Big Issue South Africa in Cape Town four years ago, he had lost his job, separated from his girlfriend and felt like a failure because he couldn’t support his two children. 

Today, as he stands on the streets of Cape Town in his blue vendor bib, which states his main goal is to support his family, Cyril is proud proud to have held down a job for so long.

He explains how The Big Issue South Africa is helping him find better work opportunities and the confidence to rebuild his relationship with his children.

“I’ve been a Big Issue vendor for four years. It hasn’t been easy for me, because I could never hold down a job for too long. I don’t have many skills, so the jobs that I apply for are often contract positions, which eventually come to an end.

“When I lost my last gig, it really hit me hard. My girlfriend and I decided to part ways around the same time and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t support my two children, who were very young at the time. A friend from my neighbourhood told me about The Big Issue and I decided to give it a go.

“It feels good that I have been able to stay in one place for so long. Some people may think that selling the magazine is not a real job, but to me it is. 

“For the first time in my life I have been able to hold down a job. It has restored my confidence. I am dedicated to selling out each month. I make up to R250 a day – sometimes even more. I love selling the magazine and I am so happy to be the Vendor of the Month.

 “Right now I am not in a hurry to move on because I have been so happy, but I know that sooner or later I will have to move on to something better. The Big Issue is a hand up, not a hand out, so for my children I will have to seek employment where I can earn more.

“My advice to new vendors would be to make use of all the opportunities that The Big Issue offers. Right now, I am focused on improving sales but my goal for the year is to work on getting a new job.”

This is a summary of an article from The Big Issue South Africa made available to street papers in our network via the INSP News Service here.

4 June 2015

INSP Awards Shortlist Announced

The finalists for the INSP Awards 2015 have been revealed, ahead of the awards ceremony in Seattle on 25 June.

The INSP Awards have been recognising excellence in street papers since 2008.

For the first time this year, the awards feature five ‘Impact’ categories, which celebrate the range of additional work that street paper organisations do, beyond the papers themselves.

Judges agreed that the standard of work was exceptional, and all commented on how much they had enjoyed reading the entries for all categories.

After judging the Impact categories, writer, communications strategist & entrepreneur Candace Faber, said: “I'm so impressed by every effort represented here and inspired by what the street papers are doing in their communities around the world. What an honour.”

Richard Walker, editor of The National and The Sunday Herald, said of the stories: “Overall, a really high standard and some unexpected topics which made you look at some subjects in a whole new way.”

The winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Seattle on 25 June, as part of INSPired Together: Global Street Paper Summit. 

If you'd like to hear more about the work of street papers, sign up for the INSP news round up here.


Best News Feature
  • The Contributor, USA
    Finding forgiveness on death row By Amanda Haggard
  • The Big Issue South Africa
    What’s wrong with crime scene investigation in South Africa? By Damien Schumann
  • Hinz&Kunzt, Germany
    Milano Centrale: a resting stop for refugees By Jonas Füllner
  • Sorgenfri, Norway
    The Heroines By Trond Ola Tilseth
  • Street Roots, USA
    American police arrest homeless woman for charging phone By Emily Green

Best Cultural Feature
  • Megaphone, Canada
    “The cure for blindness is telling it” By Austin Chisholm
  • The Curbside Chronicle, USA
    Wayne Coyne: Home is Weird You Are By T.O. Bowman
  • The Big Issue, UK
    Sir David Attenborough: 88 and still flying high By Sylvia Patterson
  • The Big Issue Australia
    Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker By Rebecca Harkins-Cross
  • Real Change, USA
    Cardboard canvas By Hart Hornor

Best Cover

  • The Big Issue South Africa
  • The Curbside Chronicle, USA
  • The Big Issue Taiwan
  • Megafon, Norway
  • LiceuLice, Serbia
  • Sorgenfri, Norway

Best Photo

  • Megafon, Norway
    Photo by Ingvild Festervoll Melien
  • Shedia, Greece
    Photo by Matina Paschalis
  • The Curbside Chronicle, USA
    Photo by Joshua Officer
  • =Norge, Norway
    Photo by Dimitri Koutsomytis
  • The Big Issue South Africa
    Photo by Juhan Kuus

Best Design

  • The Curbside Chronicle, USA
  • LiceuLice, Serbia
  • Mi Valedor, Mexico
  • Speak Up, USA
  • The Big Issue Taiwan

Best Vendor Contribution

  • The Big Issue Australia
    STUFFED By Wayne
  • Megafon
    “Dear Mum and Dad” By Ida
  • The Contributor
    Dinner with my Son By Jennifer Alexander
  • Denver Voice
    Random Life Particles By Barbara Bartlett
  • Speak Up
    Hope Dead Winter By Dustin LaPres

Best Non-Street Paper Project

  • Nota Bene, Slovakia
    Homeless Luggage Porters
  • CAIS, Portugal
    CAIS Recicla
  • Street Sense, USA
    Cinema from the Street
  • The Big Issue Australia
    The Big Issue Classroom
  • Apropos, Austria
    Yoga for Vendors and Readers

Best Online Presence

  • Megaphone, Canada
  • Street Roots, USA
  • The Big Issue, UK
  • The Big Issue Taiwan
  • Hinz&Kunzt, Germany

Best Technology Innovation

  • Shedia, Greece
  • Megaphone, Canada
  • The Big Issue South Africa

Best Breakthrough

  • Bodo, Germany
  • Street Roots, USA
  • The Contributor, USA
  • Hus Forbi, Denmark
  • Toledo Streets, USA

Best Campaign

  • Hinz&Kunzt, Germany
    Victory for Bottle Collectors
  • Megaphone, Canada
    Dying on the Streets: Homeless Deaths Report and Campaign
  • Real Change, USA
  • The Big Issue, UK
    The Vendorendum
  • The Contributor, USA

2 June 2015

Celebrating ten years of =Oslo

Norwegian street paper =Oslo is celebrating ten years in print this month with a very special birthday edition.

Norway's very first street paper went to press in the summer of 2005 and sold 70,000 copies. It now supports around 200 vendors in 15 different cities and towns across the country, including Oslo.

The latest, 100-page edition (on sale since Monday, 1 June) features all 113 =Olso covers from the past decade to visually explore its editorial evolution.

The issue also features the street paper's vendors and readers. This month's cover star is Mona, a grandmother and happy =Oslo customer, photographed by Haakon Hoseth in the street paper's very own studio.

So Happy Birthday =Oslo, here's to another incredible
ten years!

13 May 2015

Write on! Street paper vendors help promote literacy in Macedonia

Lice v lice vendors have been helping to promote Macedonian literature and improve reading habits by joining a special campaign run by electrical distribution company, EVN Macedonia.

On May 7, the street paper vendors attended the campaign's launch at the Skopje Book Fair to sell a special edition of the Lice v lice.

The issue was packed with feature articles, interviews and news reports that highlighted Macedonian writers and explored how literacy levels could be improved across the country.

Dressed in their Lice v lice uniforms, vendors also carried backpacks displaying large bookmarks emblazoned with the reading motto – “Create your habit" to promote the pleasure of reading.

The vendor team also handed out free books from several Macedonian publishers ("Tabernakul”, “Tri”, “Goten”, “Ars lamina”, “Magor”) to the first 100 readers that bought the magazine. A free anthology of work produced by young Macedonian authors was also given as a special freebie to every Lice v lice customer.

The event was hosted by Macedonian journalist, Ana Zafirova, and school pupil, Ana Stankovska. It also included poetry readings and several educational writing and drawing workshops for school children.

Famous Macedonian actress Verica Nedeska – Trajkova is the cover star of the latest Lice v lice magazine promoting literacy and literature.

Photos by Tomislav Georgiev.

(Cover pictured left - photography by Milena Viitman, design and illustration by Evgeny Viitman).

To learn more about promoting Macedonian literature and new authors, go to Raskazi.mk. For more Lice v lice news, click here.

8 May 2015

"They are fighting. Shedia's vendors never give up"

Shedia, Greece’s first street paper, launched two years ago in Athens. Today, the publication is still going strong, and supports around 160 vendors, 17 of whom are now in permanet housing. But one third of Greeks still live below the poverty line and the list of people looking to Shedia for help continues to grow. 

Editor Chris Alefantis speaks about the current situation in Greece, the vital work Shedia does and its incredible vendors.

Shedia came about from the desire to support those who had been most seriously affected by the economic and financial crisis. One could also say that Shedia is a result of the rage surrounding injustices which have happened to the vast majority of Greek workers and the middle class. We had to do something to help those affected. The same goes for the thousands of people across the country who have set up networks of solidarity and who are helping in every possible way. These are grass roots answers to a bigger problem.

If you look at the figures, it becomes clear that not much has changed over the past five years. The unemployment rate continues to be around about 26%, and the youth unemployment rate is 50%. People have been job seeking for years without success. We are especially concerned about those who are aged 45 and over. Their job prospects are particularly bad.

The queues outside soup kitchens are continuing to grow. Hundreds of thousands of people don't have health insurance anymore. How can we allow this to go on? The number of long-term unemployed people is so great, and that's dreadful. If you walk around Athens, you don't see many people smiling.

On the other hand, we support each other in everyday life. In an interview with us, the famous Greek author Vassilis Alexakis said, "We have no other option than to be optimistic." We should try that and continue to fight for a better future, both individually and collectively. This is also the stance taken in our street paper vendor meetings.

99% of our vendors are victims of the financial crisis. They had a job, a place to live, a family. They lost their jobs, then a few months later they lost their homes, and then they lost everything. Architects, former publishers, tradesmen or shop owners work at Shedia, as do people who have worked in unskilled labour. They were the first victims of the financial crisis. Their stories are those of completely normal people. On the one hand it's sad, and on the other their determination to get their old life back is impressive. They are fighting. Shedia's vendors never give up.

We also support our street paper vendors in their search for jobs and accommodation. Seventeen formerly homeless street paper vendors already have their own small flat paid for using the income that comes from selling street papers. We are delighted when it works. For us, this is a common victory. It's our readers who make this happen when they buy a street paper.

Our dream is that Shedia becomes superfluous, that all of our vendors find "regular" employment, through which they can earn their living. We also dream that we will reach the point where we will no longer need a street paper. We all look forward and work hard towards a better future. It's hard work, but we'll manage to do it. As Vassilis Alexakis says, "We have no other option than to be optimistic."

This post is based on an interview by Bastian Pütter originally published in German street paper Bodo. It was made available to INSP members in German and English via our News Service and has been republished widely across our network.

7 May 2015

Our vendors: Mark (The Big Issue Australia, Adelaide)

Years of smoking, drug use and alcohol addiction had taken their toll on Mark's health, which in turn made it difficult for him to keep a steady job. Then last year, he started selling The Big Issue Australia seven days a week in Adelaide. He says being a vendor has completely changed his life. 

"You know, once I was a real wild bastard. And even up to when I turned 50 I thought I'd grow old disgracefully," says Mark. "Then, six months ago, I came back to Adelaide and totally changed my life around. Instead of being a wild man, doing The Big Issue has put some direction and discipline in my life."

Mark grew up in Woodforde, a suburb of Adelaide, in South Australia. After leaving school in Year 10 - "they asked me to leave. [They] rang up my parents and said I was wasting their money and the school's time" - he went to a technical college for a few months, then got a dead-end job in the motor trade.

"After a year [of that] my old man gave me an apprenticeship in the family butcher shop," Mark recalls. "That was in 1978 - I've still got all my fingers! But I had to retire for health reasons, and then I drove taxis, did bar work, fruit picking…all sorts of things.

"I got put on a pension years ago for chronic alcohol abuse, and I used to be a firm believer in drug testing - namely, what drugs are we testing out today? But it was more so that alcohol was my favourite poison."

Mark first heard about The Big Issue during his five-year stay in Melbourne.

"A friend of mine was selling The Big Issue there - I made enquiries, but I never got around to doing it. I came back to Adelaide 'cos my old man was really ill, and I got the induction course done and started selling.

"They put me back on the pension a couple of years ago for emphysema, and this is the only job I'm capable of doing now."

He normally works seven days a week, mostly at a new pitch on the corner of Gawler Place and Pirie Street, outside the NAB (National Australia Bank).

"I'm getting regular customers," says Mark. "A lot of the businesspeople like the magazine, and now they can walk out of their business and find a vendor on the way to the coffee shop. I've got a big personality and a big work ethic - they treat me as another one of the workers down Pirie Street now.

"Material wise I've got bugger all, but since I've been doing this I've bought myself a good camera and a watch, so I have something to show for the money that I've earned."

This is a summary of a full article from The Big Issue Australia made available to street papers in our network via the INSP News Service here. Original interview by Peter Ascot.

5 May 2015

Megaphone celebrates vendor writing with Voices of the Street

Canadian street newspaper Megaphone has launched the fifth annual edition of Voices of the Street, a special literary anthology of vendor writing.

From Friday, May 1, Megaphone vendors working in Vancouver and Victoria have been selling the special edition for $5 (they buy it for $2.50, and keep the profit).

Since its first issue rolled off the presses in 2008, Megaphone has been dedicated to amplifying marginalised voices and supporting homeless and low-income people.

For the past six years, its vendors have been able to participate in weekly creative writing workshops and their work is regularly published in the magazine. 

"Between then and now, Megaphone has worked with an enormously talented, evolving team of writing workshop facilitators, many of whom are published authors, poets, journalists, and academics," said Megaphone editor Jackie Wong.

"Each week, they've been working with participants to tap into the therapeutic, empowering potential of writing. In the workshops, the writers craft poems and short stories that knock our socks off.

"Voices of the Street is a powerful collection of writing that means so much to so many people."

Many people involved in the workshops describe the process as empowering and even healing.

Loralee Ave Maria Judge is one of 32 published authors in Voices of the Street and was also the cover star of Megaphone's April edition (pictured below), which celebrated the impact of the project.

"Writing, for me, is kind of like drawing the poison out," she said. "It's like getting rid of a poison that no other form of expression - healthy or unhealthy - can do."

Poet and longtime Megaphone contributor Jim Ryder agrees:

"I was in really rough physical shape and mental shape after coming out of a coma. If I didn't get involved with Megaphone and started getting my work out there, I don't know where I would be."

Jim is from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, an area of the city that has gained notoriety for high rates of crime and poverty in recent years. It has become a major theme in his writing.

"I want to write so that someone who is unfamiliar with the Downtown Eastside will listen and understand what it is like," he added.

"A lot of people in the community have never had anyone listen to their opinion. When someone gives you the opportunity to share your story down here, it's totally validating."

Read more about Megaphone and find your nearest vendor here.

1 May 2015

Home: real stories of homelessness from Edinburgh

By Zoe Greenfield

Home. What is home? How do you end up without one? And how do you get back ‘home’ after life on the streets?

Home takes a novel route to addressing these questions. An original, multimedia show created and performed by homeless and formerly homeless clients of Crisis, it is based on their own personal experiences. It explores the human stories behind the statistics using comedy, drama, video, song and even puppetry... and gives an honest and stark insight into life on the streets of Edinburgh. Though possibly little rough around the edges - perhaps down to opening night nerves - any unevenness is made up for in energy and insight.

“Fuck statistics, I’m a person. I’m real!” says Danny, whose quest for home and security we follow throughout the show. As the stage fills with characters for the opening scene, each entrance brings a new story of just how easy it is to become homeless. This isn’t just one story of homelessness, it’s about each individual and their personal journey - abusive relationships, military service and growing up in care.
The Three Wise Men

You may be wondering how puppets fit into all this. I know I was. Yet as the giant puppet heads (which took the team three months to make) appear from behind the backdrop curtain, I have to concede they're a great choice for the depiction of Maximus (a corporate giant awarded the contract for getting people back to work on ‘wageus minimus’) and Sanctions (the benefit god). Their effigies loom large over the stage, looking down disdainfully on all those below, including the audience.

The mighty and universally feared Sanctions imposes benefit cuts as a form of penance for sinning against society. But the audience is left wondering about the soul of the system rather than that of the so-called ‘scrounger’ in an emotive scene which sees a terminally ill cancer patient facing the rest of his life on £11 per week.

It is a show of contrasts, ranging from raucous ensemble number ‘The 3 Step Hoedown’, to the stargazing Three Wise Men, who enjoy an alfresco aperitif and put the world to rights. A calmness descends at the end of the first act when Kirsty Heggie takes the stage with her guitar for a stunning performance. Granted, at times there is a definite sense of winging it (I think the technical term is improvisation), but even then you get the feeling you’re listening in on a real conversation and wonder quite how far it might go.

"You lose your job, you hit the boozer. Not knowing yet you’re a fucking loser. Then she can't stand you anymore. Here's your bag and there's the door."
(Verse 2: The 3 Step Hoedown)

A confident and charismatic performance from MC Blair Christie ties the scenes together well and acts as a moral compass for the audience asking, 'have you thought about what you would do?'.
It takes guts to get up on stage. But to tackle some serious and deeply personal issues, challenge stereotypes AND add a touch of humour deserves some serious kudos. This show is personal. It’s full of passion.

As Danny walks the high wire in the closing scene, we're reminded that life is a balancing act between the pain of the past and hope for the future, all the while grappling with an unfair and sometimes cruel system. I am full of admiration for the cast.

Home is on tonight and tomorrow at Old St Paul's in Edinburgh. And Edinburgh's newest theatre group have aspirations to take their show to the Fringe and on tour. You should see it. You might just learn something.

Macedonia's Lice v lice Embraces Rarity with stunning portrait series

Macedonian street paper Lice v lice (Face to face) put health in focus recently with a special edition that marked Rare Disease Day 2015.

The paper's Embrace Rarity campaign featured a stunning series of portraits that paired people affected by rare diseases with well known personalities.

It was produced in association with “Holistic”, the association of citizens for rare diseases Life With Challenges and the National Alliance for Rare Diseases of R. Macedonia.

Photographer Tomislav Georgiev worked with the Lice v lice design team, coordinated by Nebojsha Ilijevski, and stylist Irina Tosheva and make up artist Viktor Mirchevski to tell the stories of people living with rare conditions such as Hemophilia, Gaucher’s disease (brittle bone disease), Strumpell’s syndrome (where muscle turns to bone) and Pulmonary Hypertension.

Patients posed for photos alongside well known faces from the country's music, sport, TV and fashion industries. Many of the images were later digitally enhanced by graphic designers  Zoran Inadeski and Ruzica Mandichevska (Ruki Chuki).

Explaining the idea behind Embrace Rarity, Lice v lice editor Maja Nedelkovska said the aim was "to highlight that all rare disease patients are faced with big challenges in their lives."

She added: "Some of them are alive and well thanks to vital medications and treatments, but for others, there is no cure for them yet. The campaign stresses the importance of understanding them, giving a hand and embracing them, but also the need for constant research in new treatments."

The Embrace Rarity portaits were unveiled at a special exhibition in Skopje, and were displayed alongside short texts explaining each rare disease patient's story and the daily challenges they face. These were also published in a special edition of the magazine (cover pictured above).

Ana-Marija and Vera Miloshevska

The colours in Ana-Marija's (right) daily life are difficult to imagine. Delayed development, affected coordination, breathing difficulties, and lowered communication and cognitive skills are the characteristics of the RET syndrome, a disease that only affects women.

Iva Petrevska and Dani Dimitrovska

Living with Epidermolysis Bullosa means Iva’s skin is as delicate as a bubble. The slightest daily childhood activities cause painful sores on her body that require constant care and dressing, and even slight pressure, a tiny injury or scratch can threaten her health.

Vesna Aleksovska and Tanja Kokev

Having Gaucher’s disease made Vesna's (far left) bones prone to fracturing - even a slightly stronger embrace could cause a broken bone or a bruise on her body. After receiving therapy for five years, her state is now stable and she can lead a normal life.
Viktor Dimitrijoski and Bubo Karov

Viktor (far left) has never tasted chocolate, pancakes, ice-cream, walnuts, eggs, soy, meat or white bread. He has Phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition makes body unable to break down a substance called phenylalanine, which builds up in the blood and brain. PKU is treated with a special low-protein diet, which reduces the levels of phenylalanine in the body and prevents brain damage.

Azemina Kurtishi  and Ognen Janeski

Azemina (far left) is the first patient diagnosed with rare disease Gaucher to receive appropriate therapy from the Macedonian state. Without it, this disease in its last stage can completely immobilise patients, causing discomfort and inflammation of the liver, osteoporosis and shorter life expectancy.

You can see more photos from the series, and learn the stories behind them, here

30 April 2015

Street paper covers from around the world April - May 2015

From funky art nouvea designs to stunning portraits and eye-catching illustrations, street papers across the world have been wowing readers with their recent covers.

Here's a few of our favourites.


29 April 2015

Street Sense presents Cinema from the Street

A series of powerful documentaries filmed by Street Sense vendors in Washington D.C. will get their first screening tonight.

The biweekly street paper is sold across the city by homeless and formerly vendors, many of whom also write for the publication. Recently, they were given an opportunity to express their creativity in a different medium - film.

As part of the Cinema From the Street co-op project, ran by professional filmmaker Bryan Bello and Street Sense's Media Centre, a group of eight vendors were taught basic filmmaking techniques to help them write, direct and shoot short documentaries exploring homelessness in the U.S. capital.

Cinema From the Street - Official Trailer from Bryan Bello on Vimeo.

Tonight's screening will include three films made by Street Sense Filmmakers’ Co-op members  Robert Warren, Reginald Black, Levester Green and Morgan Jones. Each will give a unique insight into the struggles faced by the homeless, such as finding employment, reconnecting with family and trying to survive on the streets during a harsh winter.

Street Sense runs regular workshops to help empower vendors by teaching them how to tell their stories in creative ways - through writing, theatre, illustration and film - and practical skills to aid them with job applications, fiance management and accessing housing and health care. You can find out more about Street Sense and Cinema from the Street here.

Cinema From the Street debuts April 29, 6.30 - 8.30 at E Street Cinema in downtown Washington D.C. The event includes a Q&A with the filmmakers and cinematographers.

28 April 2015

Alex Ferguson tells street papers "I never pass a vendor on the street"

Alex Ferguson in Macedonian street paper Lice v lice.
The Big Issue's exclusive interview with Alex Ferguson has been a hit with street papers in Europe, Asia and the USA.

For more than a quarter of a century, Ferguson’s combustible presence and unique success made him the iconic face of English football.

The legendary manager opened up to The Big Issue's David McDonnell about his life post-Manchester United, revealing he is relishing retirement and the challenges beyond football management.

It turns out he’s also a big street paper fan: “I never pass a Big Issue vendor on the street, because these people aren’t begging - they’re trying to get back on their feet,” he revealed.

Alex Ferguson interview republished in Shedia, Greece.
"Sometimes, if they've only got one or two copies left, I just give them a tenner and say hello to them because they'll want to sell their last copies and get some more cash but I do like to read the articles.

"What is it they say ... 'A hand up, not a hand out?' Excellent!"

After being featured on INSP's News Service, the article was republished by Greek street paper Shedia, Ireland's Big Issue, Macedonian street paper Lice v lice, The Contributor, based in Nashville, USA, The Big Issue Japan, Hus Forbi in Denmark and German papers Die Strasse and Strassenfeger.

The article is still available for INSP street paper members to download and publish from the News Service here.

Alex Ferguson article republished by The Contributor in Nashville.

Ireland's Big Issue runs with The Big Issue's Alex Ferguson interview.

22 April 2015

The D.C. photo blog putting a face on homelessness

American street paper Street Sense recently reported on an engaging and empowering photo blog putting a name and face to the people experiencing homelessness in Washington D.C..

Street Sense vendor Robert.
"It saddens my heart too to see people passed by in the street. People won't even acknowledge a homeless individual or a homeless veteran - or even a veteran seeking assistance. Homeless people, and homeless veterans, are people too. They don't need a hand out, but a hand up."

Street Sense vendor and contributor Robert is now a recognisable face on the streets of Washington D.C. where he sells the street paper, but it wasn't always that way for the formerly homeless veteran.

He knows what it's like to be in need and to feel ignored and invisible, which is why he was happy to be featured on Person First Project, an engaging photo blog  that aims to break down barriers between people experiencing homelessness and those who pass by them every day.

Shiza Farid, Robyn Russell and Julie Schwartz created the Person First Project in December 2014 as a way of reminding people there is a person behind every unique experience of homelessness and poverty.

Chon: "If it weren’t for Street Sense, I'd probably be selling drugs."
The trio partnered up with the National Coalition for the Homeless to connect with people willing to share their own experiences of homelessness. The project highlights these stories via Facebook and Instagram, including a chat with Street Sense vendor Chon, who explains how selling a street paper is helping him build a better future.

"When you stop and talk to people who are experiencing homelessness, you hear that they're really just like everybody else. They are moms. They are dads. They are daughters. They are sons," said co-founder Robyn Russell. "If we could share this with other people, I think it could be really powerful because there are a lot of misconceptions around homelessness."

Russell says the positive comments left on each of their Facebook posts is testament to the power of storytelling as an advocacy tool, and that first-person stories can help change perceptions and open people eyes in a way that a fact sheet full of stats, facts and figures cannot.

Regarding the public who pass by people experiencing homelessness every day, she added: “It’s not that people don't care. I think they do care and I think they don't know what to do. That's how we felt.

"We hope our project can open their eyes and help them feel like maybe they can stop and talk to somebody."

This post is based on an article by Jennifer Ortiz originally published in Street Sense. It has been made available to other INSP members via our News Service here.

16 April 2015

Real Change launches cashless payment app with Google

By Laura Kelly

Seattle street paper Real Change has partnered with tech giant Google to launch an app that allows customers to pay for their paper digitally and have it delivered straight to their phones.

Vendors have had increasingly difficulties selling the paper, since fewer and fewer people carry cash with them, said Timothy Harris, founding director of Real Change.

“Cashlessness is a challenge our vendors face on a daily basis,” he added. “This app will help our paper survive in the digital age, when fewer people have ready access to cash and more people prefer to read news content on their mobile devices.”

From today, each of Real Change’s homeless and low-income vendors will each get a unique QR code on their vests to allow them to sell digital versions of the award-winning street paper, as well as the usual paper copies.

After downloading the free app to their iOS or Android phone, Seattleites will be able to scan their local vendor’s unique code to buy their digital paper for $2.99 (including a fee from digital content providers)

Vendors will make $1.49 every time someone buys a digital copy of Real Change, whilst they will still get $1.40 from every paper copy they sell. The paper copy will still cost $2.

“We designed this with our vendors and customers in mind,” said Harris. “This app will build on the strong relationships our vendors have with many of their customers, while helping customers benefit from an increasingly seamless buying experience. The paper is just a scan away.”

The project was started two years ago by a Google employee who volunteered at Real Change as part of Google’s annual week of service. 

Since then, eight Googlers have volunteered their time to develop the cross-platform app, the first of its kind for the paper.

The app in action.
“Being on the volunteer app development team has been a gratifying experience,” said Jill Woelfer, a Google User Experience Researcher who has been volunteering with Real Change since early 2014. 

“The whole team has worked very hard to create a technical solution to provide opportunities for those who are in need.”

“Street newspapers around the world are looking for a solution to how they can better adapt to the changing media landscape, while still staying true to the signature street paper model,” added Darcy Nothnagle, Public Affairs Manager for Google. 

“We hope that this app will be a model many street papers can use, globally.”

Real Change’s app is just one of the pioneering digital adaptations coming from INSP’s members. 

Others include Chicago-based StreetWise’s partnership with PayPal and The Big Issue South Africa’s SmartBibs, both of which also allow customers to pay online using their phones.

In Europe, Amsterdam’s Z! magazine and Scandinavian papers =Norge, Situation Sthlm and Faktum are working on pilot projects to provide vendors with card readers, so that customers can pay with debit or credit cards. 

In addition, some papers, including Situation Sthlm and Norway’s =Norge, use payments through text messages. 

“Many of INSP's 114 street papers, in 35 countries, are facing issues based on the continuing march of our cashless society,” said INSP chief executive Maree Aldam. 

“Innovative solutions such as Real Change’s app show how dynamic street paper organisations can continue to provide employment to some of the most vulnerable people in society, despite the new challenges they face.”