Archive for the ‘economy’ Tag

Real Change in the Economy

SEATTLE — With the economy in frightening decline, Wall Street in an uproar and WaMu‘s bankruptcy a lingering nightmare, Seattle consumers are a bit more hesitant about where they put their money. For many, this cautious new attitude may involve not only spending less on superfluous items, but donating less to charities, nonprofit organizations or giving to the city’s homeless.

Attempting to ensure a humane lifestyle for Seattle’s homeless and low-income population is the local nonprofit, Real Change. Real Change is a news organization that employs men and women, who might otherwise be begging, as Real Change newspaper vendors. The organization hopes to provide these people with a source of dignified income.

Photo & Text Copyright 2007 Seattle Daily Photo. All rights reserved, including reproduction or republishing.

Photo & Text Copyright 2007 Seattle Daily Photo. All rights reserved, including reproduction or republishing.

Real Change vendors often find a busy site in the city with ample foot traffic to sell their papers. They operate as self-employed investors; buying Real Change papers for 35 cents a piece then selling each copy for $1. “A few vendors make the equivalent of minimum wage . . . but nobody’s getting rich,” says Danina Garcia, Organizing Director at Real Change, “Some vendors can afford inexpensive housing with their sales, though most vendors who become housed are using Real Change to supplement government benefits or a pension.”

Because vendors invest in Real Change in hopes of making a profit, if passers by do not purchase the paper, the vendors face the losses. Now, for many people in this time of economical crisis, “supporting their Real Change vendor is one of the last things to go on the list of ‘luxury’ charities,”

says Garcia. In fact, Garcia claims that more and more people are becoming vendors instead of customers.

Currently, Real Change is employing 320 vendors, but Garcia expects that number to increase if the government cuts spending on social service programs. Such a cut would limit the general amount of resources for Seattle’s homeless population, and increase the need for supplementary income.

As part of their effort to promote humane living for the impoverished, Real Change also tries to put vendors in contact with shelters, treatment centers, and further employment. However, these facilities “are overwhelmed,” says Garcia, “and have waiting lists of months, if not years.”

If shorted of funding, the waiting lists for these services will lengthen, and the care that people need will be postponed.

Despite the economic situation, Garcia has a positive outlook concerning the future of Real Change itself. She says the paper’s printing and advertisement costs pay for themselves and, even though the organization is 60 percent funded by private donors, these donors will not cut off funding. “We traditionally ride through recessions because of the intense loyalty of our base,” she explains. “However, like every nonprofit, we’re feeling the pinch of the worst economic downturn in a generation, and being careful about where we put our resources.”

Exactly how careful Real Change will have to be about its choices is not yet clear in this stage of the economic turmoil. However, Garcia trusts in the loyalty of the organization’s donors, supporters and Real Change customers to keep employing and providing for the needs of Seattle’s low-income people.

To see the 2007 Annual Report of Real Change activities and vendor demographic, click HERE.

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