Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project
Real Change exists to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic, social and racial justice.
We envision a just, caring and inclusive community, where people are no longer marginalized by racism and classism and have the means to live with dignity.
Real Change offers hope and opportunity to those who are economically marginalized and often have limited options for legitimate employment. We challenge the realities of structural homelessness by advocating for broad system change while we mobilize an extensive caring community in support of policy goals that are immediately achievable.
Real Change makes the misery of homelessness visible with events like the One Night Count event, where we gathered community leaders to ring a gong this year at Seattle City Hall and the State House in Olympia once for each of the 3,772 unsheltered homeless counted outdoors the previous night. We humanize the dehumanized, and challenge our community to not accept the unacceptable.Homelessness has been described as existing behind a pane of glass, apparently invisible and separate from others. It can feel like you’re down and you’re never going to get up. It can feel like you don’t matter at all and that no one cares.
Work and community give our lives meaning, and our vendors typically report that the friendships built while selling the paper are of deeper value that the actual money that they earn. Real Change is a caring community in action that creates many small changes — both in individual lives and on the system level — that can lead to the bigger changes that transform our lives and the world in which we live.Real Change works to prevent and solve homelessness through three integrated programs:
The Vendor Program offers a low-barrier, self-employment opportunity to 800+ homeless and very low-income men and women annually that meets the vendors where they are. No ID is required. Vendors pay Real Change 60 cents per newspaper and resell the paper for the $2 cover price plus tips. Vendors begin selling the paper immediately after a ninety-minute orientation that includes agreement to the code of conduct, brief sales training, and an invitation to involvement in various program activities. Additional opportunities include advanced sales trainings and elected vendor leadership positions, and paid participation in the Homeless Speaker’s Bureau.
Real Change Newspaper is North America’s most successful street newspaper and won 16 first place awards for excellence in 2014 from the Washington Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. The newspaper is produced by four professional staff and dozens of volunteers, and is informed by a homeless and formerly homeless editorial committee that meets weekly to discuss and review content. This year we will introduce a phone app to provide cashless face-to-face vendor sales and digital content for viewing on mobile devices.
Advocacy leverages the relationships that exist between vendors and readers
to build a cross-class movement for economic justice and build the political
will to ensure that public policies benefit homeless and low-income people. In
2015, the homeless one-night count in King County found 3,772 persons outside
after the shelters were full, a 20 percent increase over 2014. Real Change’s 2014 OutsideIN pressure
campaign, which included public events, a petition campaign directed at key
city and county officials, and vendor testimony at numerous budget hearings,
was essential to bringing the shift in city policy reflected by the Mayor’s
unsheltered task force and new city support for expanded survival solutions.
Direct Service with Real Change Vendors: Sales Desk (Volunteer Opportunity)
Help Homeless Folks Make the News: Facilitate an Editorial Group (Volunteer Opportunity)