20 March 2015

Our vendors: Mr Oh "Killer Smile" - The Big Issue Korea

In less than five years, The Big Issue Korea has not only built a solid readership. It has changed the lives of its vendors across South Korea – a nation that has rapidly become an economic powerhouse, yet remains beset by homelessness and unemployment.

Mr Oh sells The Big Issue Korea in Seoul.
Mr Oh – also known as ‘Killer Smile’ – is one of the many vendors in Seoul, the country's capital, who has benefitted from this support. He became homeless after his family business failed, stripping him of his income.

"One day I was wandering around the street trying to get a meal. There’s a place that provides food and someone was there giving out leaflets about The Big Issue and how it can help get you back on track. This really interested me, so I called the office."

Mr Oh has now been selling the magazine at his pitch at Exit 8 of Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal for four years. "On average I sell 30, starting around 5pm when people finish work," he says. "Some people already know about The Big Issue and buy it frequently. They ask how selling is going, and sometimes also offer me a snack – when that happens it’s really nice."

As well as earning a steady income, the street paper has helped him find a home. In South Korea, vendors who sell The Big Issue for more than six months and save more than SKW1.5 million [$1580] can apply for rental support via a government-sponsored program. 

Thanks to this scheme, Mr Oh is now able to rent an apartment in the western part of Seoul. He says that having stable shelter has changed his life. "I have my own things in my house, can buy things I need and when I go to sleep I can think about the future. In the past I didn’t, because I had no hope. It has made a big difference."

Selling a street paper also reconnected Mr Oh with his family: "I live alone, but had a chance to be on TV because of The Big Issue, and my brothers noticed me and found me. I had become disconnected from my family for a long time. I met my brothers and my mother – it was fantastic."

This is a summary of a vendor profile by Patrick Witton, The Big Issue Australia's Contributing Editor. He travelled to South Korea with the Walkley Foundation Australia-Korea Journalism Exchange, with support from Australia-Korea Foundation and Korea Press Foundation. 

The full article has been made available to other street papers in our network via the INSP News Service here. Original interview translated by Claire Kang.

13 March 2015

10 reasons not to miss #INSP2015

Last week, INSP's Zoe Greenfield was in Seattle preparing for INSPired Together: Global Street Paper Summit 2015. She told us why street paper staff would be mad to miss it...

1.    It’s INSP’s first US event
It’ll be fantastic to have street papers from all over the world (familiar faces, and new ones too!) representing our truly global network. We already know we’ll have delegates from at least 20 different countries.

2.    Global perspective, local context
As an international network we’re facing some common challenges, especially those resulting from the economic downturn which hit those already on the margins hardest. But it’s also important to understand the different socio-economic, political and cultural contexts in which we are working.

We’re in the fortunate position to be able to draw on each other’s expertise and learn about those more local challenges too. In the words of Real Change’s Tim Harris:

“Our diversity is our strength, and that what we have in common trumps our differences… we are all in this together, learning from each other, healing a broken world, one vendor and one newspaper at a time.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself!

3.    Seattle streets
A recent one night count found almost 4,000 people without shelter in King County.  Homelessness is very visible in Seattle. Life is tough here; there is no safety net. Even as someone who has travelled widely and worked with lots of homeless organisations, I have so many questions about homelessness in Seattle.

It’s a city with issues but it’s also a city that is responding to the challenge. In June, we’ll learn about homelessness in the city and about the response. You’ll have the option to visit innovative social projects like Urban Rest Stop, 1811 Eastlake, and one of Seattle’s self-managed tent encampments. We’ll also enjoy dinner at a social enterprise restaurant Farestart which offers training and employment opportunities to homeless and unemployed people (not to mention delicious food and great service).

4.    And of course, our very own Real Change
It’s well known and very well respected in Seattle. Many people I met credit Real Change with bringing about a city-wide shift in attitudes towards homelessness. Go RC!

I received a very warm welcome from staff, volunteers and vendors (you’re awesome) to the Real Change office in the Pioneer Square district. You’ll have the chance to visit when Real Change host an open house (Tuesday 23 June).

5.    People are talking
From local radio to conversations on the bus, people in Seattle are talking about homelessness and social justice issues.

Read articles and listen to KUOW podcasts as part of the recent ‘Seattle homelessness’ series.

6.    There’s already a buzz
And (the abbreviated version) sounds something like this:
Person hearing about the Global Street Paper Summit: “I love Real Change. Do you work for Real Change?”
Me: “No, I’m visiting Real Change.  I work for INSP.”
Person: “Wait, so Real Change isn’t the only one?”
Me: “No, there are 114 street papers in 35 countries and they’re coming to Seattle in June.”
Person: “Wow. That’s awesome!”
Me (in my head): “Damn right, it’s awesome!”

And here’s our street: (Global Street Paper) Summit Avenue.

7.    Make your own
A bit like a pizza, INSP will provide the base and you can load up on your favourite toppings. Basically, there’ll be some INSPirational keynote sessions and you get to decide which breakout sessions you want to attend. Never fear, the old favourites including Innovation Exchange will be back. We listened to your feedback so there’ll be more sessions on fundraising, marketing and social media too.

8.    Celebrate in style
The INSP Awards are back! Get your glad rags (or traditional dress of your home country) on and shimmy on down to the ballroom to celebrate the journalism and social impact of our incredible network.

9.    Good to great
We already know our work has an impact (see point no. 8) but it’s useful to stop and ask ‘how can we take this to the next level?’ Altruist Partners will help us to think about what might be holding us back and how we can become more enterprising to scale up and maximise our impact.

10.    Rock’n’roll
Just when you thought it wasn’t possible for INSP to get any cooler, we decide to end the Summit on a high with a benefit gig at Seattle’s famous Crocodile Club. Between you and me, I’m sure we won’t wait until Friday to explore the local nightlife...

Can’t wait to see you in Seattle! 

11 March 2015

American students provide homeless women with free pads and tampons

For women, menstruation is a natural and regular part of life. But for those experiencing homelessness, finding a pad or tampon can be harder than finding a meal or a new pair of socks.

Rayna Blackburn, who has been homeless on and off for the past several years, tells Portland street paper Street Roots how she would fashion her own pads when she couldn't afford them or find any at local shelters.

Periods can be a nightmare for homeless women. REUTERS/Andy Clark
"I took a towel and cut it in pieces and used a plastic bag to wrap them with… I would wash one, let it dry while I was using another so I could rotate."

When turning to shelters for help, Rayna adds that she has sometimes been offered nothing but a paper towel. "I've seen [other women] take tampons and rinse them out and reuse them," she says. "It's not OK."

Unsanitary products, a lack of clean spaces to change a tampon or pad, or using the same product for too long can all lead to serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infections, such as toxic shock syndrome.

Some shelters and aid agencies keep small supplies of pads and tampons on hand, but even then, they are available only to those who ask.

"These are really natural needs but the idea that these topics are private doesn't only exist in the society but also within individuals," says Nadya Okamoto.

L to R: Giselle Cohen, Vincent Forand and Nadya Okamoto.
The 15-year-old is one of eight high school students from Portland, Oregon, who founded Camions of Care, a non-profit that provides free feminine hygiene products to women living on the streets.

Since December 2014, it has delivered more than 350 care packages across Portland, which contain enough pads, tampons and fresh wipes to last a woman six days, the average length of a period.

The project aims to empower women and destroy the view of pads and tampons as mere "comfort items".

Camion's co-founder Giselle Cohen adds that, "if you don't have the supplies to handle your own body, you can't advocate for yourself in the same way. You can't be looking for a job during that time. So that's four to six days a month where you have to basically be secluded."

Public support for the project, which now works with 50 volunteers, continues to grow. Street Roots is among many organizations now partnering with Camions of Care to distribute the packages

As of January 2015, Camions of Care expanded their service to homeless women in Salt Lake City, Utah through a partnership with Legacy Initiative. You can read more about their work here

This is a summary of an article by Ann-Derrick Gaillot originally published by Street Roots. It has been made available to other INSP members via the INSP News Service here. (Photo of Camion's founders by Reuben Schafir).

2 March 2015

Our vendors: Henrieese Roberts - Street Sense, Maryland, USA

Henrieese Roberts sells American street paper Street Sense on the streets of Annapolis, Maryland. She is also a fierce advocate of HIV/AIDS awareness and policy reform.

Motivated by close personal experiences with friends and family, she began working to raise awareness about public health, sexuality and HIV/AIDS issues nearly 30 years ago.

Street Sense vendor/writer Henrieese Roberts.
"We fear the disease instead of learning how to circumvent it, and be loving to people that do have it," says Henrieese. 

She also writes regularly for Street Sense about these topics, hoping to break down stereotypes and promote understanding of the illness rather than fear.

Having watched HIV/AIDS change the lives of people - damaging their health and presenting challenges in terms of personal privacy, employment and housing - Henrieese is acutely aware that the disease can be crippling for those already living in poverty.

"There are many people that can't afford their medications and are on waiting lists to be treated. There are also a lot of unnecessary deaths," she says.

In 1992, Henrieese herself was diagnosed with histoplasmosis, an infectious disease that has rendered her visually impaired. But she remains optimistic and continues to persevere with her filmmaking and photography career.

"I am going to actualize because I am willing to work hard," she says. 

Through her work she hopes people become more sexually conscious, avoid spreading the disease and reduce the stigma associated with the infection.

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