27 February 2015

Our vendors: Erdzan Sadik - Lice v Lice, Skopje, Macedonia

"Selling on the street was a bit embarrassing for me at first, so I spoke to customers in a low voice. They didn't hear me, they didn't even stop for a moment, so I realized I was going nowhere,” says Erdzan Sadik, who sells Lice v lice in Skopje, Macedonia.

“Now I know that this is a good and decent job and I had to put more effort into Lice v lice so that both the magazine and I would succeed.”

The 21-year-old now sells more copies of the magazine than any other vendor. “The most important thing is to smile, look people in the eye and show them the magazine cover," he says. "It's easier for me now, because I'm not a rookie anymore. I speak to customers loudly and clearly,".

Erdzan shares his sales tips with his fellow vendors and even encouraged his little brother Armando and his father to sell the magazine too. "When they saw that I leave the house clean and that I come back clean, that I am neither tired, nor upset, and I even had money left, they wanted to do this job too," he says.

Training sessions offered by Lice v lice did more to give Erdzan the skills for selling the magazine, they also encouraged him to continue his education.  He has now finished fifth grade in school. "I know that I have to study and I can promise that I will do everything I can to make that happen," he adds.

Photos by Tomislav Georgiev.

This is a summary of a vendor profile written Lice v lice's Maja Nedelkovska that was published on INSP's News Service. Street paper editors can view, download and republish the full article here.

26 February 2015

To be homeless in a country while war rages

Maryana Sokha explains the struggles Ukrainian street magazine Prosto Neba faces to support its homeless vendors in Lviv while war rages between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukraine government in the east. Based in Western Ukraine, Prosto Neba’s staff and vendors are far from the conflict but, as Maryana writes, “war...touches everybody here.”

“In Ukraine, the homeless have never been a priority. From the 90s until 2006, our state simply ignored them. There was no legislation, no social agencies to offer support and a prevailing, negative attitude inherited from the Soviet era - if you have no job, it means that you don't want to work, so you are not one of us.

During this time, only a few NGOs operated in Ukraine. The situation started to change after new legislation was introduced in 2006. At least one shelter was opened in every major city, but still, there were always too many problems to solve and a constant lack of finances.

In Lviv, a major city in Western Ukraine, our street magazine Prosto Neba was founded in 2008 with support from the NGO Emmaus - Oselya. We have a community house where 25 homeless people live and work together. We started a street paper to inform society about the problem of homelessness and persuade people to change their negative attitude towards homeless people. Our vendors have become our partners in fighting this injustice and quickly became the voice of our organization.

Today we have five vendors. They do not live in the community house but are involved in different projects like food distribution and charity events. They also receive different kinds of social services through our NGO.

Volodymyr Hilenko sells Prosto Neba in Lviv.
One of our "oldest" vendors Volodymyr Hilenko has sold the magazine for five years. He stays in the municipal night shelter and spends the day at his pitch in the city’s main square. People know him by his yellow jacket and constant good mood. For Volodymyr, it is extremely important to be on good terms with his customers and he is very proud of new friends he's made while selling Prosto Neba. He also acts as a guide for tourists, introducing them to the sites and history of Lviv. Above all else, he is now the one that homeless people approach to ask for help and advice.

But now we have a war in Ukraine. It's in another part of the country, but it touches everybody here. Young men are mobilized to go and defend the territory in Eastern Ukraine. During the last few months we have regular planes that bring dead bodies home from there, to be laid to rest at solemn funerals. If they come back alive, they are in the hospital. The whole local community is trying to support them. All the events in our city are charitable now - concerts, fashion shows, marathons, garage sales etc. to collect money for the army or for the treatment of soldiers.

Of course, in this situation we cannot try to put our homelessness issue somewhere high on the priority list. Once again we have more important problems to solve in our country. That would be the official answer on behalf of Ukraine, I guess. The position of our street magazine remains the same - we keep doing our work. Will it help our vendors to move on? I am not sure right now. At least it helps them to survive and stay safe.”

A longer version of this article is available for street paper editors to download and republish from INSP's News Service here.

24 February 2015

Mobile showers offer dignity to San Francisco’s homeless

By Laura Smith 

In San Francisco, a local non-profit is restoring dignity to hundreds of homeless people, one hot shower at a time.

In a city where approximately 7000 people are homeless, there is just a handful of free washing facilities available to those living on the streets.

Lava Mae aims to change that by converting decommissioned city buses into mobile shower units, complete with hot running water and free shower, toilet and changing facilities. 

The project piloted its first bus on the streets of San Francisco in June 2014. It was soon providing between 300 and 500 showers a week to homeless people across the city.

Lava Mae's founder Doniece Sandoval said: "The first time people see the bus, they can't believe it contains showers and toilets. Their reaction is the most rewarding part of the project.

"It's been humbling to have someone thank you profusely for something so simple - something that the rest of us take for granted."

Here's what service user Bobby had to say after his first time on board the Lava Mae bus.

Doniece originally raised $75,000 to fund the first Lava Mae bus through crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

So far, the non-profit has sourced $110,000 through online crowdfunding and received a $100,000 grant from Google as a part of its Bay Area Impact Challenge program. This means they can now start work on creating a second unit.

Doniece aims to eventually have a fleet of four bright blue buses operating across San Francisco. "Once we have four buses on the road, we can offer 50,000 showers per year," she says.

But Lava Mae isn't just about providing hot showers for the homeless. It works on the idea that people experiencing homelessness can't access jobs or housing, or maintain health and well-being, if they can't get clean.

With hygiene comes dignity, and with dignity comes opportunity, says Doniece.

"It's been incredibly rewarding to hear stories of guests lining up job interviews, getting housing and generally improving their lives by being able to get clean on a regular basis.

"It's really amazing what a shower can do and the possibilities it can unlock."

Lava Mae is also starting to offer support and advice to hundreds of organisations that have already shown interest in replicating the project in their own communities, from cities in Santa Clara and Hawaii to Nigeria and South Korea.

For more information visit www.lavamae.org

Photos courtesy of Lava Mae/Sole Moller. This is a summary of an article by Laura Smith for INSP's News Service. You can read the original version here. Street paper editors can click here to view, download and republish the full article.

20 February 2015

Street paper covers February 2015

Check out these amazing street paper covers from around the world this month, including some great #VendorWeek editions.

Our vendors: Robert Smith - Real Change, Seattle, USA

A couple of years ago, Robert Smith went to the Seattle suburb of Kirkland to sell the street paper Real Change.

As a "stereotypical big black guy" he was worried: "This is an upper-class environment. There's not that many black people around. I was afraid they were going to call the police on me."

Robert Smith. Photo: Mike Wold
While he now has many regular customers, Robert says that "a lot of them don't understand. If I had an opportunity like what they have, I wouldn't even be selling the paper."

For the past nine years, Robert has been on and off the streets, starting in Las Vegas, where he grew up. His mother is dead and his dad, a Vietnam veteran, is serving time in prison. He moved to Seattle five years ago but had a hard time finding a decent job.

"A lot of jobs are just modern-day slavery," he said. "You got people working two or three jobs, making eight, nine dollars. You can't survive off that."

But he adds that being homeless "makes you count your blessings for the little things, just to wash, wash your teeth, take a shower. When you're homeless, these things are all taken away from you."

Sometimes, when he doesn't see a customer for a while, Robert worries that they stopped buying from him because he's too outspoken or even because he doesn't look down-and-out enough.

"Sometimes I've got to be quiet, because I'm a very real person, and a lot of people don't like to hear real things."

Either way, he thinks people would be missing the point.

"The underlying point is to help somebody that's less fortunate. You don't go to church to hear the preacher. You go to church to hear the Word. Just buy the paper."

This is a summary of an article by Real Change reporter Mike Wold that was published on INSP's News Service. Street paper editors can view, download and republish the full article here.

19 February 2015

German artist inspired by homeless for controversial collection

While the latest designer fashion clobber or edgy new art installations filling up catwalks and galleries might give nods to modern culture, they probably won't have a particularly huge impact on society in general.

But with his latest collection, German artist Winfried Baumann aims to make a bold statement about homelessness by blending art, architecture, fashion design and social activism.

His 'Dumpster Diver' suits (pictured right) are part of his Urban Nomads project. "It's all in light of the fact that the urban nomad, the hunter-gatherer, is back on the city streets," he says.

Images from Winfried Baumann's Urban Nomads collection.
"Over the last 10 or 12 years, nomadism experienced a renaissance. So the purpose of my work became not only the "classic" homeless person who's been thrown off course in life, but also seasonal workers, students and "work nomads" who can be constantly moving around with no more than a laptop and a small travel bag. This also means a loss of social structure."

Baumann's collection includes a range of "Instant Housing" models (pictured right) that see wheelie bins and large suitcases transform into mobile shelters. The Nuremberg-based artist has also worked with German street paper Strassenkreuzer to design mobile trolleys for vendors to store copies of the magazine.

While his work has received some criticism, Baumann says the response from homeless people has generally been positive. "The question comes up time and time again as to whether we're creating art at the expense of the homeless - but always from people unaffected by homelessness," he says.

"I've never experienced this reaction from homeless people. They definitely understand the hidden humour in the work."

Bauman's work certainly promotes debate.While his designs are a far cry from practical solutions to homelessness (similar to the 'coffin slumber box' for the homeless that recently appeared in Belfast city centre as a 'social experiment'), they do draw attention to the fact that finding permanent and lasting solutions to homelessness is a global need that is always in vogue.

This blog is based on article by Florian Blumer from Swiss street paper Surprise originally published on INSP's News Service. The original article is also available for street paper editors to download and republish in English and German.

18 February 2015

“Selling a street paper gave me back my dad”

Street papers aren't just a source of income for thousands of people across the world. They are also a lifeline. Sandra Corfitz from Denmark explains how Danish street paper Hus Forbi reunited her with her estranged father.

After Sandra’s father Leif abandoned her for a life of addiction and homelessness when she was a child, she never expected to see him again.

Leif Milatz with his grandson on his birthday last year. Photo: Lars Ertner
But then Leif began working with Hus Forbi. When he was interviewed for an article in 2008, Leif said of his then 19-year-old daughter, "She grew up with my mother. When she was two years old, I took her home to my mother and asked her if she would take care of her while I scaled down my drug habit. I'm still working on that."

In the years he had no contact with Sandra, Leif lived on the streets and in shelters. Whenever he was thrown out of a place because of drug abuse, he would go back to living under the main railway station in Copenhagen.

When he started to get back on his feet, Leif asked a family friend finally to contact Sandra on his behalf. "My grandmother and I had almost given up," she recalls. "We were just waiting for the funeral."

"But then he began to sell Hus Forbi. He came back to real life again instead of just sitting and melting in his abuse."

When Leif died in 2013 and Sandra wrote a moving thank you to the street paper through Facebook.

Sandra Corfitz with her son Kristian. Photo: Lars Ertner
"Thank you for the extra 10 years I got with my father," wrote the 25-year-old mother of two.

"Thank you for giving him the strength and the desire to try to be better. Until 2003, I feared losing him to his drug abuse. What changed that year was that he was a Hus Forbi vendor.

"He got a purpose in his life, a way to support himself, a desire to get up and get out. Finally, there was something who expected anything of him in terms of being sober and presentable.

"I had my father again, as I remember him from when I was little. You do a fantastic job and has meant a great deal for my father, my grandmother and me."

This is a summary of an article written by Hus Forbi's Poul Nielsen Struve for the INSP News Service. INSP members can view and download the article in full here

17 February 2015

Our vendors: Renae - The Big Issue Australia, Adelaide

Renae, who sells The Big Issue Australia in Adelaide, lives by her personal motto: "keep moving forward, don’t let anything hold you back".

Photo of Renae by Andy Rasheed
The 21-year-old certainly didn't let her learning difficulties hamper her education. At school, she excelled in woodworking and completed several courses, including furniture making and construction. Yet she has struggled to find an apprenticeship after graduating.

Renae first heard about The Big Issue through a family friend. She found the training easy to understand and, on her first attempt, sold her bundle of magazines in just a few hours.

"It's quite fun, and gets me out of the house for a few hours," she says. "I only do it four days a week now.  I don't know the customers' names, but they do like to have a chat if they've got time.

"My favourite spot is the Adelaide Arcade. I just hold the magazine up, and people ask me about it. Sometimes they buy it, sometimes they don't, but at least they know what it’s about.”

Ultimately, Renae would love a job that lets her work with her hands, such as building – a passion she pursues in her spare time.

"At the moment I'm building a guinea-pig cage…I've got heaps of stuff to do. I've got a belt sander, some basic tools, even a biscuit cutter, but I still want to get a bench planer and a thicknesser.”

In the next couple of years, Renae hopes to secure a carpentry apprenticeship, which could lead her into full time work.

“But I think I'll be selling The Big Issue for a while yet,” she adds. “I'm told it can take a couple of years to get an apprenticeship. My motto is 'keep moving forward, don't let anything hold you back'."

This is a summary of an article by The Big Issue Australia reporter Peter Ascot published on INSP's News Service. Street paper editors can view, download and republish the full article here.

13 February 2015

Meet the guys keeping Australia’s homeless in clean clothes

Sometimes the simplest idea can have the greatest impact.

After noticing a gap in the services offered to Brisbane's homeless, Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi kitted out a van with two washers and dryers to launch Orange Sky Laundry - Australia's first mobile laundry service for the homeless.

Orange Sky Laundry founders Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi.

But the 20-year-olds say they've done more than sort out homeless people's dirty laundry in the last four months. "This isn't just about washing clothes, it's a catalyst for conversation," says engineering student Lucas.

Being homeless often means having to neglect the simple things in life that others take for granted. On the streets, having clean clothes quickly goes from being the norm to a rare luxury.

"We saw all the great work that the food vans and other services have offered in Brisbane and Australia-wide, and just noticed that this hygiene aspect that has been overlooked quite a bit," said Lucas.

Launched in August 2014, Orange Sky Laundry now runs five days a week, Monday to Friday. It is funded purely by public donations and manned by a growing crew of young volunteers.

The free service usually pulls up near food vans, health vans and cook-outs so people can get their laundry done while they have their meal.

Using washers and dryers donated by electronics giant LG and powered by an on-board generator, the team can clean and dry around 20kg of clothing every hour, which covers around ten people.

But the non-profit does more than deal with people's dirty laundry. Lucas says the service helps make lasting and meaningful connections with homeless people.

"Once you take someone's clothes and put them in the washing machine, you've locked them in for 45 minutes,” he explains.

“They’re not going anywhere, so we can have a quality chat with them, build up relationships and figure out the best services to refer them to.

"Once we've established a rapport with our friends/clients, the service has been very well received. We've also seen some people transition off the streets, which is our ultimate goal."

Lucas and Nicholas will soon expand the service to Cairns, a city on the Queensland coast, after receiving a new van from the Jelley Family Foundation. They are also in talks to set up Orange Sky Laundry in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.

"Homelessness is quite a big issue here," explained Lucas. "It's one of those issues that's kind of hidden in most major cities, so we're all about raising awareness. It's why we share stories on our Facebook page - it can happen to anyone."

To find out more or to donate to Orange Sky Laundry, visit their website or Facebook page.

This is a summary of an article originally published on INSP's News Service. You can read the full article here. The article is also available for street paper editors to download and republish.