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.)
...so 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