REAL ISSUES

F.A.Q.s

What is a street newspaper or magazine?

Street newspapers (or street papers) are newspapers or magazines sold by homeless or impoverished individuals and are produced mainly to support these populations in a financial capacity. Most such newspapers primarily provide coverage about homelessness and poverty-related issues while seeking to strengthen social networks within homeless communities. Street papers aim to give these individuals both employment opportunities and a broader voice in their community.

When did street papers begin circulation?

war cryStreet Paper History: The roots of street newspapers go back to the 19th century, when the Salvation Army created the War Cry, a weekly publication in Cleveland. From 1872 to the 1920s, the Christian-influenced paper was sold on street corners to help explain to the public how they could help the needy. Several other papers followed the War Cry, but most of them were published by religious organizations, and few used homeless vendors to sell the paper.

street publications

The first secular street newspapers did not appear until the 1970s. Portland, Ore., claims to have had the first modern street newspaper, the now defunct Homeless Times, which was founded in 1972. The oldest existing street paper today is Street Sheet in San Francisco, which came out with its first issue in December 1989.

The modern street newspaper movement really took off in the 1990s, as public policy towards the poor changed and as desktop publishing became readily available. Some of the largest street papers today started during the mid-1990s, including L’Itineraire in Montreal and Real Change in Seattle. New papers are still continuing to develop and thrive.

Is Real Issues the only homeless magazine?

No. Real Issues is one of about 23 street news publications in the United States and more than 90 worldwide. Street publications drastically vary in size and circulation, producing social-issued focused newspapers and magazines sold by vendors who make an income on newspaper sales. For more information on other street newspapers and magazines or a background on these publications in general, visit the website of the North American Street Newspaper Association.

street news

Are all of the vendors homeless?

The majority of Real Issues vendors are indeed homeless; either living on the streets or in shelters. A small percentage have been able to secure modest housing with their earnings and we motivate each of our vendors to define their own idea of success. We do not discriminate against anyone with a need and desire to better their lives through the sale of Real Issues. However, the magazine is not a viable substitute for the wages and benefits of gainful employment and we encourage every vendor to use Real Issues as a stepping stone to more lucrative mainstream opportunities.

How does someone become a vendor?

Initially, vendor recruitment will rely upon canvassing, word of mouth, and recruitment incentives. For assistance in finding and registering new vendors, we have formed partnerships with local shelters and missions having existing outreach programs within the community. Please check back with us soon for updates regarding new vendor orientations and training schedules and locations if you or someone you know would like to become a Real Issues vendor.

Can anyone become a vendor?

Given the scope of poverty, it is difficult to define the prerequisite conditions for an individual to qualify for admission to sell Real Issues Magazine. The aim of our organization is to offer assistance to those living on the street or residing in temporary housing. However, we also see the magazine as providing economic relief for the long-term unemployed and people living below the national poverty line. In short, anyone with an honest need and the motivation to succeed is welcome to register as a Real Issues vendor. We do not discriminate on the basis of educational or criminal background, thus eliminating the restrictions encountered by many of our vendors prior to selling magazines. Street news publications have an effective history of filling a vacant niche in their communities as a low-threshold employment opportunity.

How many vendors sell Real Issues?

We currently distribute the magazine through a minimum of 25 active vendors, though this number will continue to rise as readership grows and word spreads among the homeless community and social services network.

Where do vendors buy their magazines?

For the purpose of magazine distribution, we approach various denominational churches and non-profit organizations for a lease or donation of space on a daily to weekly basis. At these locations, registered vendors can receive their allotment of magazines and designate their sales turf. If you have an office space in the downtown area that you would consider leasing or donating temporarily for a worthy cause, please contact us for more information.

Where is Real Issues Magazine sold?

Vendors may operate anywhere within the city limits of Houston and Harris County, though the efforts of Real Issues have been concentrated inside the downtown area to facilitate transportation for the vendors and to promote greater visibility in the community.

How much do vendors typically earn?

In a recent poll of street publications nationally, the average vendor is seen to earn about $45 a day. The level of personal success for each vendor is determined by that individual and contingent upon variable factors such as consistency, experience, and location. Those vendors who apply themselves full-time have been able to secure modest housing and a livable income, while others simply desire to fulfill basic needs in the areas of food, transportation, and toiletries. The more experienced vendors report that selling at the same location every day allows them to form a caring relationship with the readers who regularly buy from them on their way to work, school, or home. Top sellers view these relationships as the key to a higher success rate.

Can I offer a vendor more than $2 for a magazine?

Yes. The suggested $2 donation in exchange for a magazine is the minimal amount that we have calculated to be a fair price for the quality of our publication and sufficient for vendors to purchase additional copies while maintaining a modest profit margin. Many vendors struggle against physical and mental disabilities for many hours at a time, often braving inclement weather conditions to meet the rigorous demands of selling a magazine curbside. Other vendors need to support family members in addition to themselves. We encourage readers to contribute any additional amount with which they feel comfortable.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways in which local citizens can join in the poverty relief struggle here in Houston. Please review all of the suggestions below to see which may apply to you:

1.) Purchase a magazine from a vendor…
You can purchase Real Issues Magazine from many local vendors. Each vendor makes a commission directly from each sale of our publication. Vendors can be found throughout the downtown area of Houston. Please be sure to look for the official Real Issues vendor badge when purchasing your magazine.

2.) Purchase a subscription…
If you don’t have access to a neighborhood street vendor in your area, or if you have a business at which you can showcase Real Issues Magazine to your customers and employees, please consider an annual subscription. Be sure to specify the name or badge number of any vendor for whom you wish to be the recipient of your one-time subscription fee.

3.) Volunteer…
Real Issues is always looking for responsible, committed individuals and groups to help us fulfill our mission of organizing, educating, and building alliances to create solutions to homelessness and poverty. We exist to offer an empowered voice and legitimate income to those marginalized by poverty and rely on volunteers and interns to keep the magazine and other programs operational. Experience with the homeless/poor is helpful, but not required.

4.) Give a gift…
Vendors often have to endure variable weather conditions and spend many hours a day on their feet. Any donation of beneficial or seasonally appropriate attire would be sincerely appreciated. Please contact us for an updated list of the items for which we are in need.

5.) Donate through PayPal…
Make a secure donation of any amount through PayPal to the Real Issues Real Advocacy Foundation 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and help us connect vendors with essential programs and services as they continue their journey toward self-sufficiency.

6.) Attend a Real Advocacy Foundation fundraising event…
We will be scheduling local events throughout the year at which you can meet new people and enjoy great entertainment all while helping a good cause. Check back with us frequently for details about upcoming fundraisers.

7.) Spread the word…
Mention an editorial piece from the magazine to your friends and co-workers – we hope that our articles provide plenty to talk about. Update your Facebook or Twitter status to help draw attention to the magazine and direct your friends to our website where they can learn more. Soon you will be able join our Real Issues Facebook fan page – stay tuned!!!

How can local businesses get involved?

The most common way local businesses contribute to Real Issues’ mission is through placement of an advertisement in our publication. We offer many ad layout options to fit your style and budget. If you would like more information about placing an ad with Real Issues please visit the advertising section of this website.

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Their aim – to accomplish targets that are social and or environmental as well as financial – is often referred to as the triple bottom line. Many commercial businesses would consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social or environmental purpose remains central to their operation.

Many non-profit organizations see social enterprise as a way to reduce their dependence on charitable donations and grants while others view the business itself as the vehicle for social change. Whether structured as nonprofits or for-profits, social enterprises are simply launched by social entrepreneurs who want to improve the common good and solve a social problem in a new, more lasting and effective way than traditional approaches. They are conceived and operated by visionary entrepreneurs who recognize potential where others may not see it and who apply discipline, pragmatism, courage, and creativity to pursue their solution in spite of all obstacles, toward a world that is more abundant, secure and inclusive for all.

How do micro-enterprises effect change?

Micro-enterprises contribute significantly to economic growth, social stability, and equity. This sector is one of the most important vehicles through which low-income people can escape poverty. With limited skills and education to compete for formal sector jobs, these men and women find economic opportunities in micro-enterprise through the principles of entrepreneurship. These micro-enterprises not only contribute collectively to the national economy, but also create reliable social networks within their communities, empowering an otherwise marginalized segment of the population.

What type of magazine is Real Issues?

Real Issues Magazine is a monthly news publication advocating for the rights of low-income and vulnerably housed citizens. Our publication strives to create fairness, opportunity, and community by covering issues that socially concerned people want to know about: from topics surrounding poverty and homelessness to stories about labor, the environment, health care, and civil liberties – Real Issues is the voice of the community, inviting readers to participate in real solutions.

Loyal readers can expect smart and credible news reporting, strong local political coverage, intriguing and in-depth interviews, quirky humor, and strong human interest reporting. They’ll view purchasing the magazine as a way to immediately help a person who is poor or homeless while proudly supporting long-term solutions to poverty. Dedicated to promoting emerging art, music, film, cuisine, and culture, Real Issues Magazine strives to present the community with a bold design, fresh attitude, and affordable advertising. It features an eclectic array of current events news, essays, and photography in order to appeal to an educated, socially conscious readership, providing a consistent source of news and opinion on topics that are often underplayed in mainstream media.

Who is Real Issues’ target audience?

The market that Real Issues Magazine will serve is the socially conscious, urban professionals and students who desire to be informed about the issues that shape their lives, culture, and community. More than 140,000 people work in the downtown area of Houston, over 4,000 live downtown, and approximately 17,000 students attend downtown colleges. These groups will come into contact with a vendor on a daily basis – arriving at or departing from work, school, or home. They represent the typical reader of an urban-issues magazine: professional, educated, and socially concerned.

How many magazines are sold each month?

Our first printing will circulate 5000 copies and we project a monthly increase of 10% throughout the year.

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