Archive for the ‘social change’ Tag

Sandra Sells Social Scoop by the Safeway

SEATTLE — You may have seen Sandra standing diminutively off to the side of the automatic doors calling softly, “Real Change. Would you folks like to buy a Real Change?”as shoppers pass in and out off the Safeway on 15th and John. Or, if you shop during the day, maybe you haven’t seen her. 

A self-proclaimed night owl, Sandra usually haunts the Capitol Hill Safeway in the late evening when other vendors with 300 and 600 club standing at Real Change do not have priority. The 300 club and 600 club are part of Real Change’s turf system that allows vendors who sell 300 papers a month in a certain location rights to that location for half the day, while those who sell 600 papers a month get the rights to their location all day. “I’ve been selling papers for 2 years and I can’t seem to get that high,” Sandra laughs, without mirth.

Bundled up in a heavy down jacket with a knitted hat pulled snugly over her frizzy hair, Sandra shifts her body in the cold as she calls out to shoppers, the bold logo of the Real Change newspaper displayed prominently against her chest.  

After buying Real Change newspapers every Wednesday for 35 cents then selling them for $1, Sandra sells enough papers to profit $50 to $100 a week. That is approximately 77 to 154 papers sold a week. 

If you calculate her maximum total income as $400 per month, then expand that figure to $4,800 a year, divided by a year’s worth of full-time work hours, Sandra makes approximately $2.30 an hour. The living wage in King County is $4.73 at the poverty level. 

Sandra has applied for government financial aid, but so far the process has been difficult. The aid programs will not recognize her disability, which she neglects to disclose, and when asked about the complications of the process, she shakes her head and takes a deep breath as if to say, “I don’t want to get into this topic tonight”. She does think that the some of her difficulties can be attributed to the recent recession making it harder for her and other homeless people to find aid. Although, it has never been an easy process for herin the past. 

She has recently applied for low-income housing, but the waiting list is as long as 3 to 6 months. Luckily, Sandra usually stays with friends, her only support system since her husband died in 1999. “I don’t do shelters,” she says resolutely, “I don’t even want to deal with them”. Shelters are too chaotic and impersonal for Sandra, and she dislikes the early closing time restrictions. “I’m out here selling papers at night,”she explains. For Sandra, this is a necessity. 

Even with her late business hours, Sandra has felt no decrease in the number of Real Change News consumers in light of the recession. In fact, she merrily points out that her customers constantly tell her how much more they enjoy Real Change papers than the Seattle Times or the P-I

Sandra does not read the paper herself, unless “it’s a really good one”. However, one reason Sandra believes Real Change is preferred is because, she says, “I think people like the poems .”

When asked if a really good paper includes really good poems, and if the poems are her favorite section of the paper, Sandra laughs shyly and says, “Oh, I don’t know about that stuff, darlin’”. Perhaps this week’s issue will nourish her closet poetry fiend. 

I recommend picking a up a copy of the Real Change newspaper from Sandra at the Safeway, but I cannot guarantee that she will be there.  A nomad to the core and a seasoned traveler of many U.S. states, Sandra hopes to find a warmer home before the biting cold of winter makes her nightly news business impossible.