Homeless Cooperative: Replacing panhandling?

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

Is this a good idea?

Yes, it will help the homeless
3
21%
No, it will be a nuisance and not help anyone
8
57%
It will soon replace the Cap Times and the State Journal
3
21%
 
Total votes: 14

lysander
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Homeless Cooperative: Replacing panhandling?

Postby lysander » Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:55 pm

I've been hearing about a program in which local homeless folks will be selling copies of a newspaper called "Homeless Cooperative". There is a similar program in Chicago that seems to be successful, but I don't know if its the best fit for Madison.

At first glance, it sounds like a great idea. Vendors buy it for 25 cents a copy, and then sell it for $1. Homeless people will help write for the paper, it will provide them with income and help inform people about the situation with homelessness. Sell 10 copies in an hour, and that's $7.50.

On the other hand, there is already competition, and not just from Cap Times / WSJ / Isthmus / Madison Times etc. Local Socialists sell copies of The Daily Worker for $1. People tend to avoid contact with anyone holding a stack of anything paper (try handing out flyers on State St / Library Mall).

And if you've been to Michigan Ave. in Chicago in the last few years, you may have seen crowds of people competing against each other to sell their papers. Sure, I bought one, but only one. And most people won't part with their dollar more than once every few weeks, if that.

I do suppose that this is better than just regular panhandling, though. Unless the cops crack down on them for not having street vendor licenses and stuff.

bigdumbgirl
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it's been done, and successfully

Postby bigdumbgirl » Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:17 pm

I think it may take some time for Madison to get used to the idea of a homeless newspaper, but giving people the opportunity to earn money through selling a newspaper as an alternative to panhandling just makes good sense. One of the facts of homelessness/poverty is an overwhelming hopelessness that can hinder any attempts to move away from the situation. Vendors who sell Seattle's homeless newspaper are the most successful in the country, and whether they're using their profits to buy food, get a cheap hotel room on a cold rainy night, or supplement their disability income (many are low-income or homeless veterans), there is one benefit that is intangible: the feeling of confidence that comes from selling the paper and having regular (and not so regular) customers that treat them like human beings. And that goes a long way.

There are many homeless newspaper success stories out there, from The Big Issue in the UK to Real Change in Seattle. There's no harm in trying to recreate the same success here.

We cannot forget or disregard those in our community that are experiencing difficulty. Doing so puts us all at a disadvantage.

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Postby mudduck » Mon Oct 17, 2005 5:21 pm

or a bottle of booze...

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Postby lonesomejohnny » Mon Oct 17, 2005 9:47 pm

....Or bus fare to Rockford.

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Re: Homeless Cooperative: Replacing panhandling?

Postby bmasel » Tue Oct 18, 2005 1:57 am

lysander wrote:Unless the cops crack down on them for not having street vendor licenses and stuff.


Freedom of the Press trumps local vending ordinances.

The Big Cheese
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Postby The Big Cheese » Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:33 am

A newspaper written by homeless people could be so . . . well, I won't say awesome because all too often right around the time the permanent address disappears, so too, go the faculties for writing clear compelling prose.

Still, if it were ghost written by not homeless writers for homeless people --- Or, better yet, the articles were "as told to. . . " I guess what I'm trying to say is that blunt should write the whole thing, since anyone who calls him "not homeless" is probably quibbling with technicalities. Then I'd happily pay a $1 for it.

As it is, I usually feel a little awkward when I give money to panhandlers, like people around me think I'm a sucker. Like I should shout to the sideglancers passing by: "Hey! I don't care if he spends it all on booze! I might!"

Anyway, the first headline for this homeless paper should be: "City declines to buy Overture Center for $1; buys copy of Madison Mendicant instead."

Heh. Homeless people write such long headlines.

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Re: Homeless Cooperative: Replacing panhandling?

Postby BobArctor » Tue Oct 18, 2005 7:05 am

bmasel wrote:
lysander wrote:Unless the cops crack down on them for not having street vendor licenses and stuff.


Freedom of the Press trumps local vending ordinances.

Absolutely no law can tell anyone not to sell a newspaper on the public street.

News vendors may still be asked to leave private property.

We can tell the spangers, "No thanks, I read it on the net already."

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Postby el guante » Tue Oct 18, 2005 2:46 pm

the first issue is quite good. it's not out yet, but i'd recommend picking it up-- not only because it helps people, but because it's worth reading too.

that's going to be the Homeless Cooperative's most important challenge i think-- convincing people to actually seek out the paper and buy it proactively. hopefully we'll see some kind of formal ad campaign in the next few weeks. they've been getting good press already.

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Postby AmyW » Tue Oct 18, 2005 7:19 pm

Does anybody have more information on this? Where will it be sold and how often will new issues come out?
I can see myself spending $1 every week to help out, but I'm not so sure that I'd write a check for $52 each year.
I think I'm starting to get charitied out. :(

lysander
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Re: Homeless Cooperative: Replacing panhandling?

Postby lysander » Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:16 pm

bmasel wrote:
lysander wrote:Unless the cops crack down on them for not having street vendor licenses and stuff.


Freedom of the Press trumps local vending ordinances.


I should certainly hope so. But then again, I'm not one to put a whole lot of faith in Government, and most people selling this paper probably don't have a lot of money to retain attorneys.

I would feel much better about everything if your statement was proved to be true, and just as good if it was never tested (i.e. no one was ever hassled for selling newspapers).

FYI, you already have my vote.

bmasel
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Flea speech in public forum

Postby bmasel » Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:29 pm

The City's current street vending ordinance does not make an exemption for 1st Amendment protected materials, and is therefor unconstitutional. Even if one applies for the City's permit, it's only available to the author of, for instance, books.

I've raised this flaw with several alders over the past years since the current vending ordinance was adopted, and heard promises to look into the necessary amendments, but there's been no followthru. (Brenda?)

In practice, the city police have taken my word that the ordinance is unenforceable as regards buttons, tshirts, and bumperstickers bearing political messages, as well as newspapers. (Dennis Coyier reports he's not been hassled over his button cart.)

I was arrested by the University Police for a literature table on the U's portion of the Mall in 1991. The University's lawyers failed to answer my brief on deadline, so charges were dismissed, The University's cops were never told to cease enforceing their rule, but have backed off ever since when I've been out there. Your mileage may vary.

In 1993, the Capitol Police arrested me for selling political tshirts, Judge DeChambeau convicted me after admitting he had not bothered to read the 12 page brief I submitted, said he doesn't do constitutional law, and if I didn't like the ruling I could appeal. I didn't, figuring I'd set up a fresh case with better facts. The Capitol Police likewise backed off, so there was no case to follow up with.

Note to City Attorney's office: The binding precedent here is from the 7th Circuit, Milwaukee Mobilization for Survival v Milwaukee Parks District, 1979. See also the 9th Circuit's Guadiya Vayishnava Society v San Francisco, which added printed coffee mugs to the list of protected items.
Robert Lederman won a string of cases against Mayor Giuliani in New York, dealing with sales of artwork by the artist on public streets (The spraypaint artist at State and Gilman reports no problem with MPD, tho the 1st guy in town pracyicing that form of "flea speech" at concrete park was run off 15 years ago. As an undocumented immigrant, he was afraid to fight the issue and left towm.). UW law grad, and my old pal, Jim Fosbinder added musical recordings, when sold by the artist, to the list of protected items in Harry Perry v City of Los Angeles.

melmotel
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Postby melmotel » Thu Oct 20, 2005 10:39 am

My name's Mel Motel; I'm an editor of the Homeless Cooperative, Madison's street newspaper set to come out in a few days.

Without going into too much detail, I'd like to clear up some stuff.

The Homeless Cooperative will be a monthly project. Vendors will be on the street a few days per month. The intention of the paper is not to "compete" with existing newsprintââ?‰?Â

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Postby BobArctor » Thu Oct 20, 2005 11:41 am

In all seriousness, I like this idea. I'll nearly always feed anyone who really is hungry or offer humanitarian emergency help. Did a stint with a Catholic Worker communty and some folks from the Community for Creative Non-Violence.

Things have changed. The streets are turf now. The CCNV was nearly eaten alive by street gangs & junkies. Carol fell apart after Mitch died. The feds had an interest in destroying the hospitality communities involved in political work. Hadn't thought of them in years, here's the site:
http://ccnv.hopto.org/

The idea of selling a newspaper is great. I'm sure you have every right to sell a newspaper (or anything with a political, spiritual, or educational signal) on Library Mall, with impunity.

Criminalizing the poor and homeless is a bad thing You have an antidote if applied correctly. It's a bad idea to give money to people on the street. Making pan-handling actually illegal is un-constitutional, discouraging pan-handling is necessary. I snarl at pan-handlers myself. Accept a ride to Luke House or get out of my face.

Pretty busy, but might be interested in assisting your projects.

massimo
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Postby massimo » Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:18 pm

((edit: I misread Mel's post where he indicated that the vendors would only be out a few days/month. This fact makes most of what I posted below inaccurate.))

With all due respect to Mel and others who have posted here, I voted nuisance. Consider:

I walk along State Street/library mall two maybe four times per day, say 50 times/month. If there are two people selling this paper in that territory, I will be asked a maximum of 100 times (maybe 30-40 times realistically?) if I'd like to "donate" a dollar for this publication. It's a monthly project, so I will actually make that donation once in that time (assuming I'm a loyal consumer), making the other 29-39 times (easily could be more with more vendors and more trips up/down State Street) somewhat of a nuisance.

Of course, this is not a nuisance if the vendors are polite and non-confrontational, but in Seattle, where I lived for 2 years, the tactics were pretty, um, energetic. All I know is that I got really tired of "Real Change" being shoved at me 5-10 times/day.

I'm not trying to be down on the homeless here. I just believe that it will be very important to monitor the customer service aspect of this project. I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to reading your upcoming issue.
Last edited by massimo on Thu Oct 20, 2005 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

BobArctor
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Postby BobArctor » Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:23 pm

Pan-handlers are a total nuisance. Like it or not, the activity is a fully protected form of free speech. My remedy is to be polite to the extreme when I tell them in no uncertain terms that "I do not believe in giving money on the street, good day." I'm a complete dick about it and that's all it takes.

So sort the customers out with a feedback device.

A really cheap-ass button for each issue. Like an old "I am loved" button. All we have to do is point to the lapel button with this month's logo. We all give one dollar a month and the button is our license to not be asked again until next month.

Thousands of downtowners would have lapel bottuns to show a massive support for your program. Harrassing a subscriber to double-dip would be a social error.

Do I have compassion fatigue yet? Maybe. Will be interested in seeing the first issue.
How do you feel about these guys?
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Suggest hiring Scanner Dan as a police reporter.
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