StreetWise risks going under

April 14, 2009 2:51:15 PM PDT
The weak economy may force Chicago's biggest advocate for the homeless into the streets.The newspaper StreetWise could shut down in the near future.

Nearly 80 percent of people who start selling Streetwise are homeless. It puts money in their pockets and restores their dignity. But the magazine that so many depend on now needs financial help to keep it afloat.

StreetWise vendors gather at the periodical's West Loop headquarters for their monthly meeting where normally, they talk about a variety of issues. But on Tuesday, heavy on everyone's mind is the toll the tough economy is taking on the publication.

"If it was to stop, it would be traumatic occurrence and I would have to do something else and I don't know which direction I would go," said Roark Moody, StreetWise vendor.

Moody started selling issues of StreetWise in 2001 after he lost his job. The money he gets from selling the magazine is his only income, and helps keep him off the streets. But now, the paper that has helped thousands of people in dire straits earn a living has itself fallen on hard times.

"In a worse case scenario, if the public doesn't help us, we can be in a dire financial situation in 45 days," said Bruce Crane, executive director, StreetWise.

Crane says less people are buying the magazine, which vendors sell for $2. Also, StreetWise has lost major support from foundations.

"Foundations are finding that they've got more agencies coming to them for funding than they used to, so the same pool of money is getting spread among more agencies and getting less to each of us I suspect," said Crane.

"It would be a real tragedy to stand on the sidelines and to see the organization fold," said Ald. Manny Flores, 1st Ward.

Flores sponsored a resolution in City Hall last month to pledge support for the publication that first hit the streets in 1992.

Organizers say there are at least 200 vendors at any given time. Most of whom are homeless and the money they get from selling the paper helps them get on their feet.

"We're talking about families out on the streets," said Flores.

StreetWise executives estimate that the magazine has lost about $90,000 worth of revenue that would normally come in from foundations and contributions.

It's hard for them to say how soon they could fold, because they are waiting for grants. But the worst case scenario could be a couple of months.


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