Our work is putting people to work.
What is economic empowerment? Here at Toledo Streets, we define it simply as having the resources to change your financial circumstances. And a simple answer begs a simple solution. Enter street papers, publications which exist first to be a low-cost, portable, consistently fresh product for anyone to sell in public, and second to be vehicles for advocating on behalf those selling them and others experiencing poverty and marginalization. People, then advocacy for people.
“Where else can you get a job and start working this quick?” – Fred, former vendor
We call the folks who sell the paper ‘vendors’. Anyone 18+ can join us, regardless of mental health, physical health, criminal record, past work history, housing status, addiction, or other factors that often limit the usual vendor from acquiring a traditional job. To get started, potential vendors attend an orientation, held weekly at our office and community space. Our Director of Vendor Management talks about the paper and program, gives some basic sales techniques, shares the Code of Conduct each vendor must agree to and sign, and those who decide to try the opportunity on for size register as self-contracted vendors. They receive a temporary badge, a stack of 10 free papers, a sign, and waiver of vendor fees from the Mayor of the City of Toledo.
And here’s the beauty of the program: Those who are motivated to get out and work will. They’ll sell the papers they’ve been given, and they’ll come back for more. They’ll invest 25¢ for each paper, making at least a 75% profit. And suddenly, they’re micro-entrepreneurs with a flexible, scalable business. They’ll come back for more trainings, earning their permanent badge, and more free papers. They’ll reach sales incentives and build job skills, having something to put on a resume, which we will help them write. They’ll come to vendor assemblies for special trainings and enrichment sessions, and also simply to hang out on our couch and cool off or warm up. They’ll use our little computer lab to search for jobs, write cover letters, or work on contributions for the paper. They’ll have the chance to earn more money on commission for selling advertising. They’ll get connected to our partner organizations, who will assist them on personal goals like building savings, paying off debt, interviewing skills, and other needs. They’ll have opportunities for higher learning, cultural expansion, and networking.
Anyone can shout “get a job!” to someone who’s asking for help. It takes hard work and passion to put a program in place that can ‘give a job’ to anyone who wants one. And more than a job, our vendors own a business, and have a place to belong and grow personally and professionally.
Here are some success stories and things vendors have to say about our program.