Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Homeless: the word on the street

I met some interesting people at the homelessness conference in DC last week. One of them was Koki Smith, editor-in-chief of Street Sense. Street Sense is a newspaper written by and for the poor and homeless of Washington. It is sold on the streets by poor and homeless men and women. They buy the papers for 25 cents each and sell them for $1. Jesse Smith is this week's featured vendor:

Jesse Smith, 57, was born on Feb. 24, 1950, in the Gallagher Hospital (now D.C. General) in Washington, D.C. He spent most of his life in the D.C. area. He attended Dunbar High School, graduating in 1968. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia) in 1974 before entering graduate school at the University of Maryland in 1984.
Married in 1969, he moved to Clinton, Md. in 1974, where he owned a house with his wife and two children until 2002.
He was employed as a technician for many of the companies under the parent Bell System, the C&P Telephone Company, AT&T and Lucent Technologies for 27 years, and a major consulting firm employed him for one year. He served as president of the Committee to Save Franklin Shelter. He is now employed as the vendor manager for Street Sense and is a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless Speakers Bureau.
How did you become Homeless?
My becoming homeless was the result of a divorce. When I went through that process as far as I was concerned the world had ended. I was one of those persons who believed in marriage until death do you part. Unfortunately my ex–wife didn’t see things that way. During the proceedings, I relinquished all claims to property and financial remunerations and just walked away with the clothes on my back, which resulted in my being left without a place to go.
Why do you sell Street Sense?
I sell the paper because it serves a real need for this community, speaking of the condition of the disenfranchised, the homeless and the general population that is ignored by the mainstream media.
Other vendors tell their stories.

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