Though the Denver VOICE just celebrated its 20th anniversary, we find folks in Denver still have a lot of questions about our publication and job program. Whether you’ve been here forever or you’re a new transplant, here is our myth-busting guide to the Denver VOICE.
“VENDORS GET THE PAPERS FOR FREE”
Vendors do not get the papers for free; they pay us 50 cents for each copy. Essentially, they are investing in their opportunity as a VOICE vendor. When you buy the paper for $2, that money goes straight to your vendor. Vendors will then budget some of the money they make to buy more papers when they run out. The small amount we take in from vendors goes toward helping print the next issue. Many vendors take pride in paying for their papers—that’s what makes this a job, after all, instead of a handout.
“THAT VENDOR HAS A SMART PHONE!”
Cell phones are just as essential for people experiencing homelessness as they are for everybody else. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a pay phone? Even phones with a small data plan can be incredibly affordable due to the government’s Lifeline program.
“THAT VENDOR DOESN’T LOOK HOMELESS”
Yes, we actually hear this one. A couple things: first, this is part of the Denver VOICE’s mission, to address the fact that there is no one face of homelessness. Second, just because someone is experiencing homelessness and poverty doesn’t mean he’s given up on his appearance. Just look at VOICE vendor Joe Osckel. Joe is especially skilled at finding bargains at Goodwill and Ross, and has always been known as a sharp dresser, even when he was living in a parking garage. And finally, some Denver VOICE vendors actually have found housing, whether it’s through a government program or on their own.
“THE DENVER VOICE USES HOMELESS PEOPLE TO MAKE MONEY”
The Denver VOICE is a nonprofit. We survive mainly on individual donations and grants. The “suggested $2 donation” that you make when you purchase a paper goes straight to the vendor.
“IT’S BETTER TO JUST GIVE THEM THE MONEY AND NOT TAKE THE PAPER”
When you don’t take the paper, you turn your vendor into a panhandler. Always, always take the paper. Vendors are working.
“It’s not supposed to be a long-term job…”
We have to accept that there are some people who come to us who will never be able to join or rejoin mainstream society. For those people, we think continuing as a vendor is better for them and society than us pulling the plug on our support.
“THEY HAVE TO SELL A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PAPERS OR THEY’LL BE FIRED”
Vendors run their own micro-businesses, independently managing their work.
“I saw a vendor shopping at WHOLE FOODS”
They were probably hungry, and had just been working outside the store. Hopefully it means they’ve had a good week! Everyone deserves to treat themselves, right?
“Selling The DENVER VOICE is just a scam…”
Trying to sell a newspaper on a busy street is not easy. If you were looking for a scam to make fast money, you wouldn’t be selling the VOICE. Though it’s not easy, the VOICE offers vendors one very important thing: the ability to set their own hours. It can be difficult to find a job when you are also trying to get to case meetings with social services agencies and navigate emergency shelter hours. VOICE vendors get to choose when and where they work.
“THE DENVER VOICE IS WRITTEN BY HOMELESS PEOPLE”
It’s actually not, but about 20 percent of the content we publish is written by vendors or people experiencing homelessness.
“IF I GIVE THEM MONEY THEY’LL JUST SPEND IT ON DRUGS OR ALCOHOL”
We support vendors with addiction problems and complex needs, yes—but not all of them have these problems. And who are we to say what you or anybody else should spend your hard-earned wages on? If you go buy new shoes, eat junk food, buy a bottle of wine on Fridays, that’s your business.
“I THOUGHT ONLY THE HOMELESS COULD SELL THE DENVER VOICE BUT THAT VENDOR HAS A HOUSE…”
We’ve learned by bitter experience not to cut off support from a vendor too soon. We will continue supporting the vendor until they decide they no longer need us and have mastered the skills many of us take for granted: putting aside enough money to cover food, rent and utilities, and paying bills on time. ■