Real Change newspaper comes to the Eastside

The Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project is expanding its reach to the Eastside.

The Seattle-based organization will partner with Congregations for the Homeless in Bellevue to provide an opportunity for low-income and homeless individuals to profit from sales of the nonprofit's weekly publication.

Real Change sells its newspapers to independent vendors, who resell the papers at a higher cost and keep the profits. Managing Director Alan Preston said the success vendors have had in Seattle needed to be extended as an opportunity for those on the Eastside where homelessness is sometimes overlooked or hidden.

"It's more stigmatized here on the Eastside," he said, "but that doesn't mean that poverty doesn't exist. It doesn't mean that homelessness doesn't exist."

Under the arrangement, prospective vendors will go to the day center on 108th Avenue Northeast to apply, purchase newspapers and receive their Real Change badges. The paper increased the resale cost of the papers from $1 to $2 in April, while keeping the vendor cost at 60 cents, which means each paper sold puts $1.40 in the pockets of those in need. What they do with their income, said Preston, is up to them.

"You're an independent business person when it comes to this paper," he said during an outreach and orientation session at the day center on Monday (Nov. 18).

Real Change launched in Bremerton two weeks ago after service organizations expressed an urgent need for the publication and its job opportunities, though the Eastside had been picked first. Instead, Preston said Bremerton served as a pilot project before coming to the Eastside. Real Change was planned to launch in spring 2014, but is getting an early start to capitalize on the spirit of holiday giving.

"It is the best time of the year for vendors to sell," said Preston.

Colin Werre, a down-on-his-luck painter who was laid off when business became slow, said he prefers selling Real Change to taking a hand-out. While the publication didn't officially launch on the Eastside until Wednesday (Nov. 21), he picked up his papers in advance.

"I started right away," he said. "I was eager because this is the only way I could make money right away legitimately. … It's been tough, so it definitely gives people an opportunity who want to earn a living and not just live off the system."

Werre said there is a feeling that Bellevue is an affluent place that doesn't acknowledge homelessness. However, he's hopeful selling Real Change will help him standout from panhandlers as someone trying to better himself. Maybe, he said, it will open up other job opportunities in the future.

"I have noticed a difference. It's a slight difference, but I have noticed a difference where people are a little nicer," he said. "Half the time, people don't want the paper. They just want to support you doing something legitimate."


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