BY DIONNE GILBERT | VENDOR AND VENDOR COORDINATOR
With the warmer weather and summer upon us, it’s become busier for many of us, personally and professionally. Some of the vendors started branching out more, so some days the mall has fewer VOICE vendors with their papers.
Due in part to the volatile weather in late May, it was not unusual to see few vendors out. It should start picking up for them again, once there is no fear of papers getting ruined in the rain. Recently we re-signed several vendors who chose to come back, so you will be seeing some newer faces out there as well as established vendors.
I recently took a short trip out of state for a visit to the South, destination Arkansas, for a family reunion. We saw many impoverished or homeless people throughout small towns and cities. The closest city with a street paper was Nashville, Tenn., leaving countless homeless individuals in the surrounding areas without a way to make a living other than panhandling.
The other thing we noticed is how vibrant Denver is in comparison to some of the other cities we have seen—to say nothing about all of the growth that is happening in Denver, not just downtown but in all the outlying areas as well. We have many more resources for homeless individuals than many other parts of the country. I now understand why so many homeless come to Denver from other states; they have a better chance at making money with the paper and keeping their dignity at the same time.
The question then became: could any of these other cities have a street paper with the same type of program as the Denver VOICE? While it would certainly help, in many cases the abject poverty means having fewer resources to help these people get back on their feet and on the road to self-sufficiency.
The bottom line upon returning home, however, was a thankfulness to be a part of this paper, our vendors, and the program. I feel more confident about the plans for moving forward and growing more in other parts of the metro area besides downtown Denver.
Watching vendors receive the medical care they need and acquire housing is awesome and profoundly satisfying. It is also satisfying when they chose to move on to other jobs to make money and grow. Even after finding housing and other jobs, some of our vendors stay with us to vend the paper as time and their schedules allow. I understand the draw in doing that. I think our customers sometimes forget all that they give—usually it has nothing to do with the donations. We become part of the larger picture as a whole, bringing us together.
As the summer comes, our activities increase. We are back to having regular meetings, sales classes, and having youth groups in from all over to visit. I always look forward to breaking stereotypes on these occasions, so it is a fun and lively time in the office—plus I get a needed boost of young people to help me take care of things that I do not always have the time for. They are invaluable on several levels.
Some days I get frustrated that we can’t do more or provide more for our vendors, but I also have to step back and tell myself that we are not here to fix everything that is wrong. We are here to give them chances and tools to survive and take those where they need to as individuals. It is about baby steps and as long as we are moving forward and not back that is enough, at least for today. ■