By Ashley Strange
Trinity Washington University
Journalism Class Student
Street Sense, a street newspaper inside of The Church of the Epiphany based on G Street NW, Washington, DC, is helping students develop as journalists while helping the homeless earn income.
According to their mission listed on StreetSense.org, they provide “economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness in our community by elevating voices and encouraging debate on poverty and injustice.” The homeless and formally homeless write about 50 percent of the paper, while the other half is written by students, journalist, volunteers, and advocates, as described on the website.
Street Sense was created around the idea of helping the homeless gain income through paper sales, as explained by Editor-in-Chief Eric Falquero. The vendors who write for the paper and tell their stories are helping to “build public education” on issues around homelessness in D.C. Falquero said that Street Sense is “not just a newspaper,” they are much more. Street Sense provides other services besides helping vendors earn income. Their Film and Theater program is composed of documentaries and plays, all written by vendors and artists that help bring awareness of homelessness to those who may not buy and read the paper.
One of many Street Sense vendors is Patty Smith, who has been with the paper for 11 years. Smith became homeless after her and her mother lost their home. She afterward enrolled in the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) which provides job training among many other services. Through a job search, she found Street Sense and later joined as a vendor. Smith states that she loves working there, and she is even able to publish in the paper.
Not only has the organization given her the opportunity to earn money and write for the paper, it also helped her with finding housing. “He’s a good editor,” Smith stated referring to Falquero. “He really keeps the newspaper going.” She said that she feels good about being able to earn income by selling papers.
Anna Riley, a 2016 summer intern, said that Street Sense “focuses on issues that really matter.” In an internship, Riley wanted something that combined Journalism and Social Justice Issues, which she did not get from other internships. “It was the best internship I ever had,” she stated. She also mentioned that interns have a lot of responsibilities; “you’re not just getting coffee” or running errands. Surprisingly, Falquero said the exact same thing following his statement that “you’re a reporter from day one.” This is how interns develop their skills, through trial and error.
This unique street paper is able to bring awareness to the ongoing issue of homeless in D.C. while helping students gain experience as journalists. “It’s an incredible organization,” Riley said. It’s an organization where she would like to intern at again. Future plans for the paper entails, according to Falquero, switching from a biweekly paper to a weekly paper to provide vendors with a steady and increased income. “I just love being a Street Sense worker,” Smith stated. She thinks that working for the paper has helped her make an impact in the world.