Thursday, January 24, 2008

Intern Insight: Coffee Break

By Brittany Aubin

Undoubtedly, some poor intern in this city is just now embarking on a semester–long affair with the office copy machine. For many young people, the allure of prestigious ID badges and K Street commutes almost eclipses the annoyance of days spent running coffee and crunching numbers.

It was partly an effort to avoid such a dreaded coupling that brought me to this position in Street Sense’s humble church office. For me, a senior majoring in international development and print journalism at American University, Street Sense seemed the perfect chance to combine news writing, social justice and empowerment.

While I have worked with homeless communities before, much of my knowledge comes from volunteerism, both in D.C. and as an exchange student in Chile. These opportunities were rewarding, but did little to address the deep–seated issues surrounding homelessness.

Seeing the advertisement for Street Sense online, I saw a chance to take my involvement one step further.

All of that brought me to this morning, my first day at Street Sense. Wedged between fellow commuters on the Metro bus, I fantasized of soon–to–come undercover features, intimate interviews and daring adventures as intrepid gumshoe reporter.

Only an hour in, I decided this job would be anything but predictable. Set up at my own little computer – complete with lime–green keyboard and mouse – I already had a list of tasks ahead of me. With stories to cover, photos to find and sources to track, a bit of mindless photocopying actually started to sound relaxing. Between e-mails and phone calls, I had a chance to meet some of the paper’s vendors, who drifted in and out of the office to buy more issues, attend meetings and just chat. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to welcome me to the team.

By noon, every stereotype I might have had about the homeless was gone and I was floored by the diversity of personality, race, gender and background that made up this little office. The roles of vendor, volunteer and friend seemed merged, with many vendors helping out and basically everyone knowing more about the paper’s operations than me. In fact, everyone seemed to know a little more about life than me. With conversations jumping from the origins of Valentine’s Day to what kind of root goes into root beer, I wondered how it was that anyone got any work done here at Street Sense.

But work I did. By the end of the day, I realized how different this internship would be from others I had in the past. Putting the finishing touches on the vendor survey charts for this issue, I knew that the numbers corresponded to the many new faces I had met today. Although quite used to sobering statistics, I couldn’t shake the fact that over half of our vendors were 51 or older. And even my math–challenged mind understood about 30% of vendors had been homeless for four years or more – about one–fifth of my 21–year–old life.

Making the abstract personal is an uncomfortable feeling. Returning with other tired commuters Friday evening, I may have appeared just another Red Line undergrad, dressed in freshly-bought business casual, departing at the Tenleytown stop. Returning to a comfy apartment with heat and well–stocked shelves.

And a newfound understanding of the inequalities of this city. It sure beats running coffee.

Brittany Aubin is a senior at American University and an intern with Street Sense through the spring.

Vendor Notes

By Laura Thompson Osuri

Superstar Students

I’d like to give a special thanks to Kellie Marsh and Jenn Dunseith from the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., who came and volunteered in our office during the second week in January.

Not only were they a huge help at doing last-minute tasks to get the Jan. 9 issue out, they were key in getting our office organize and updated for the new year. Kellie and Jenn updated the story archive lists, sorted the donors list for 2007, and organized our archive of past issues.

And for one afternoon they went out and sold papers with vendor Mark Jones all about town. And while they said it was a struggle to sell the first few issues, in the end they said they had a great time.

New Interns

And speaking of help from college students, I would like to welcome our interns for the winter/spring semester. We have Brittany Aubin, a senior at American University with a double major in international studies and print journalism; Jessica Elliott, a junior at Lafayette College who is in D.C. for the Washington Semester at American University; and Mary Pat Abraham, a high school senior at the Howard Gardner School.
Brittany is in Wednesdays and Fridays helping with the editorial work, Jessica helps out Mondays and Tuesdays on the vendor side of things, and Mary Pat is in on Fridays doing a little of both.

Lee in the Kitchen

After 16 long weeks in the D.C. Central Kitchen culinary arts training program, vendor Lee Mayse graduated Jan. 22. Just a few days before graduation, he accepted a job offer at D.C. Public Schools.
Lee will be cooking at a cafeteria at one of the schools, though he does not know which one yet. Lee said the job offer was a true blessing from God, and that he is thrilled to start working as soon as possible.

Big–spending Customers

Jeffery McNeil wanted to thank a well–dressed male customer near Metro Center who gave him a card the other day, which held a big surprise. “I couldn’t believe it!” Jeffery said. “I opened the card later and there was a $50 bill.”

And our newest vendor Frank Reddick wanted to thank two customers yesterday who separately gave him $100 bills.

Frank got these donations during his first day at Street Sense while he was selling near Dupont Circle. He came back the next day ecstatic and anxious to get his new badge. And by the end of the day he was vendor #168 and had already sold 40 papers.

Our Oldest Vendor

On Feb. 3, our oldest vendor Charlie Mayfield gets a little older, turning 74. We wanted to congratulate Charlie on reaching this milestone while still going strong selling papers. You can often find Charlie selling at Union Station. He does not look a day over 60!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TODAY: Your $10 Can Help Street Sense Win $10,000 From Facebook!

Join the Street Sense Facebook One-Day Donation Challenge on Jan. 10, 2008!

If Street Sense gets the most donors in one day – which on average is 60 donors – we will win $1,000 from Facebook.

And if Street Sense is in the top 13 for most donors during the course of this challenge – which right now is only 120 donors for the 13th place – then we win $10,000.

All we ask is you donate just $10 on Jan. 10 to Street Sense and pass along this note to 10 different people.

Here's how to donate:
- Go to and search for "Street Sense"
- Click on the donate link
- Enter the appropriate amount (it only has to be $10) and your info
- Click donate to complete

If you're not a Facebook member, all you have to do is join, which takes about 30 seconds to do, at

So remember: $10 on Jan. 10, and email 10 friends, to help Street Sense win $10,000.

Thank you for your support!