STREET SENSE DIGITAL HOPE PROGRAM
According to the 2014 Point-in-time Count of Homeless Persons in the Metropolitan Washington Region, a one day “snapshot” of the homeless population conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 7,748 people living in the District of Columbia were found to be literally homeless, an increase of 883 people from 2013. Of that grouping, 44% of people are employed, 25% are disabled and 22% are on Public Assistance.
Street Sense is a 16-page, Washington, D.C., area newspaper sold by people experiencing homelessness to help them earn an honest income. Street Sense features news, editorials, poems and art about homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. About 50% of the paper is written by homeless and formerly homeless individuals and the other articles come from staff and volunteers including journalists, students, advocates and an array of other professionals. For over 10 years, Street Sense has used their unique model to carry out the organization’s dual mission of providing public education on issues of homelessness and poverty and creating economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. Building on the growth of online media, Street Sense is incubating a digital learning program to provide vendors with the tools to pursue the new class of jobs that the digital age has created.
Street Sense’s Digital Hope project is creating new digital careers for DC’s homeless with a goal of doubling the income that its vendors currently make selling its paper. This is critically important to their mission because entry-level, minimum wage jobs are no longer enough to pull DC’s homeless population out of poverty. DC families would have to work 132 hours per week, 52 weeks a year at the minimum wage just to afford rent for standard 2-bedroom apartment in DC. The course is designed for lasting impact giving participants the skills and tools they need to work independently and improve their lives long-term.
Funding provided by the DC Social Innovation Project will support the pilot year of the program.