The vendor manager and I had a conference call this week with the North American Street Newspaper Association. We were able to speak to street newspapers in various cities like: St. Louis, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Nashville. They discussed ways to improve their street paper programs. What I learned from this presentation is that all street newspapers are having similar problems to us like vendors selling old papers and not relinquishing their badge if they break the rules, yet fortunately our program is farther along than other papers. We have more vendors and sales than other papers. Some of the recommendations presented that may be helpful for our organization is to collaborate more with police officers and enlarge the date of the edition so vendors don’t sell old papers.
When I started this position I thought advocacy was just a word thrown out there to make non-profits feel good. However, now I know that advocacy can work. Speaking out to city council has evolved to the City, Community Shelter Board, and service providers working to ensure that people are not sleeping out on the streets. While the issue has not been solved there are people addressing this concern today.
Self-determination, a term, constantly preached in my social work classes, meaning that an individual has a right to decide what they want to do. This term has a new meaning for me after this fellowship. I have met several homeless vendors who enjoy being on the land and do not want to go into shelter. As a social worker you need to respect all decisions from clients.
This has been a great summer to build and strengthen my social work skills. I have learned a lot about interviewing people, needs assessments, and understanding the community of Columbus. This fellowship will help me greatly when I start my new internship at the Buckeye Ranch. Considering many of the families served at the Ranch come from low-income backgrounds many of the resources I am familiar with will be helpful when I start my position there.