Thursday, November 30, 2006

Good Bye August

So yesterday was August Mallory's going away party. For all that don't know, August is a vendor/writer/volunteer who has been with Street Sense from the start. He helped bring in some of our first vendors and was the first vendor to ever purchase papers from Street Sense. He has also been writing a fictional series called Marvin Hammerman since the the second issue. (Fortunately for us, he said he would continue it when he leaves DC.)

August has decided to pick up and move way across country to Seattle, Wash. for reasons that are still unclear. But he has his mind set and will be flying out tomorrow. So last night we had a little going away party for him in the Parish Hall of the church where we are located. To be honest the party was kind of thrown together in a couple weeks, but it turned out wonderfully with great food, lots of people and many memories (and inpersonations of August.) A great mix of people attended including vendors, volunteers and readers.

The main part of the evening consisted of people standing up in no particular order to say a little bit about August and what they like/remember most. There were quite a few, "Street Sense. $1. $1." inpersonations and many comments about August's reliability and, um, dry, sense of humor ("Boy, I'll tell ya.") And at the end of it all long time volunteer David Hammond "retired" August's number complete with a 3-foot tall badge with his photo. But the great surprise of the night was this acapella gospel trio that sung two songs for August. (Really the biggest surprise of that was that vendor Charles Nelson was the one who actually brought the group in.)

It was a great night and very heartwarming and enjoyable. It was great to see how many lives August has touched and effected. That's what Street Sense is all about: our vendors putting a face to homelessness and showing people that we are all the same inside and have the same hopes and dreams and common caring for others.

We will miss August greatly at the Street Sense office. From the beginning he has been Mr. Reliable and has been a great promoter of the paper as well. But his legacy will remain in his many had written signs around the office, his continued Marvin Hammerman story, and most importantly the empty space that is now left at the corner of Conn. Ave, and K streets near Farragut North.

If you have any memories of August, PLEASE share them. We would love to here how he has effected your life....LAURA

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I know this blog entry is super late and I know I have already broke my promise of writing on a consistent basis. But I will try my hardest now to do at least one (maybe two) entries a week, as I do in my personal journal. Its much more manageable then the overly ambitious 3 a week, I promised.

Anyway, onto the walkathon....

The Walkathon was Saturday Nov. 21, a huge event for our vendors giving them ample opportunity to sell papers, make money and promote Street Sense to an even wider audience. And like the past three walkathon's this one was very fun and very profitable. It might have been our best yet.

I got downtown 7:30 am and set up our distribution point at 7th and Indiana, NW. A fabulous location as it was near the Starbucks closest to the National Mall. Obeying orders we got from police last year, we decided to stay off the Mall this year and sell on the sides streets. And that worked just fine as floods of people were coming and going from the archives and gallery place metros and the parking garages all around them.

The first vendor to arrive was Wendell William and he brought a table. (I couldn't believe it!) but he excitedly set it up at the corner of 7th and Penn. I was sure the police were going to yell at him to put it away but fortunately that never happened. About a dozen other vendors came to pick up papers and in total we distributed about 1,300 paper that day, not counting what vendors brought along with them....not too shabby, I must say, especially when all the vendors I talked to reported making $100 or more that morning.

Me and Jesse stayed at the Starbucks locale all morning handing out papers and promoting the paper with our banner and jesse's yelling. "Street Sense. All the news the Post doesn't cover" "Street Sense. Stories about housing, shelters and health care" one point in time I even think he said something about porn but he claims he said poetry. And I did a few Street Sense cheers..."Give me an S. Give me an E...." And vendor Anthony crawford also sold papers nearby and made some great money.

We even got to talk to Anthony Williams and get our picture with him. (He got a paper but did not looked too thrilled about all the photos.) We also met a few loyal subscribers and donors who also stopped by to say hi.

So it was a great day for a walkathon and for selling Street Sense and I had much fun and the vendors did as well.

And to top it all off after the walkathon me Jesse and a few other went back to the office to unload our new used office furniture compliments of Lattice Group (our website hosting group). Which has since been set up and makes our office look far more professional then it ever has.

So a good day for Street Sense indeed.....LAURA

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Three Year Anniversary

So today marks the third birthday of Street Sense. On Nov. 15, 2003, the first issue of Street Sense hit the streets of DC. I won't bore you by regurgitating what my letter to readers in this current issue (though, do read it if you get a copy) but I do want to reminisce a bit about the first day to remind people of how far we have come.

Street Sense's first issue had a print run of 5,000 (this month we printed 13,500) and that was probably way too much. I remember standing outside of the National Coalition for the Homeless's office building (where we were originally headquartered) on a misty morning with the other co-founder Ted Henson anxiously awaiting vendors to come and pick up papers. I had even brought bagel and coffee to welcome them. We were so geared up because the Washington Times had run a front page article about us. And all that showed up in the first hour was August Mallory (who had helped us with starting the paper and recruiting vendors).

And following August, probably another 5 vendors showed up. It was a bit disappointed as me and Ted and many other volunteers had put most of our time during the past two months into developing and creating the paper (and many of our friends and family helped to financially support the first printing), but we did not give up. Ted and the Fred Anderson (who was our volunteer vendor coordinator) went to shelters and helped to recruit vendors. A few of our first vendors include Phillip Howard, James Davis, Allen Jones, Conrad Cheek Jr. and Bobby Buggs. In the next few weeks we had about 10 vendors and I think we sold about 3500 papers (I cannot remember exactly and we kept terrible records back then.) that is the beginning of Street Sense....

Now we have a 43 active vendors -- 18 of them came in today to buy papers -- and the numbers will only be growing as our new vendor manager Jesse Smith Jr. just joined us, doubling the Street Sense staff, which I only joined a year ago. (For the first two years it was all volunteer run.)

Our office is still very chaotic and some would say disorganized by its 100 times better than what it once was. Its funny to think of our live and learn process and neither ted nor I had ever run a street paper before. Simply things like setting office hours, specific times for training, putting the papers in a room far away from the office and having limits on papers on credit were implemented early on and vastly improved our operations.

I also look back now at the layout and stories from our first couple issues and ask myself "what were we thinking?" as they look amature compared to our most recent issues. But I remember that we had to start somewhere and that this whole Street Sense thing is really and evolution. And three years from now I will probably look back at the current issue and say the same thing. So change is good, but hopefully those at street sense will never forget its beginnings.

I could reminisce for hours about the early days of Street Sense but I will end here (for now). However, I really welcome comments from any long time readers and volunteers about their first impressions and the develop of the vendors, the paper and the organization.

Happy Anniversary Street Sense,

Laura Thompson Osuri
Executive Director

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Office Begins

So this is the start of "The Office Street Sense Style."

This blog is meant to kind of be a journal of the amusing, chaotic and exciting place that is the Street Sense Office. Either myself or our new vendor manager Jesse Smith will be writing entries on a regularly (at least three times a week) basis.

And pretty much everything goes when it comes to what to expect from these entries (Except disclosing the private information of our vendors and volunteers, of course.) so its worth checking on in on a regular basis. Not only will the antics of our office provide a great distraction to your own work day, but they will also give you a glimpse of who the vendors, volunteers and staff of Street Sense really are.

In the last week alone there have been some great highlights. For example on Friday vendor Chris Sellman was downloading wacky music onto one of our newly donated laptops (which he just purchased Monday) and me, Chris, Jesse (the new vendor manager), and Peter (the intern) had a brief seated dance party has he cranked up "Barbie Girl."

And yesterday the vendors were chattier than ever as me and volunteer Marian Wiseman were intently trying to edit the final layout of the paper. So in between reading stories, we heard about Cliff Carle's days of fooling around in high school and Chris Sellman's many musings about his ex-wife. And then there was vendor Allen Jones who trying to sell Marian on some new gardening device he recently read about, and trying to explain to me some new tennis racket he wants me to buy. (Allen is never at a lose for new ideas!)

Today was calmer, which was much appreciated as I had to get the paper up on the FTP site and to the printers by 3pm (three hours earlier than normal.) But the was the amusing distraction of Cliff Carle trying desperately to hit on Anne Marie (a pastor at the church of the epiphany) and her pastor friend) telling they the were "fine black women" and trying to impress them with his Bible knowledge.

So that is just a glimpse of things to come!

Enjoy reading on and comments and questions are also welcome,

Laura Thompson Osuri
Executive Director