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Real Change Newspaper Vendors Become More Visible

People selling the street newspaper Real Change are now easier to see.  They’ve been issued bright green reflective vests. 

The paper is sold on the street by people who are homeless or formerly homeless, who pay 60 cents for each paper and sell it for $2.The vests, provided by local unions including the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, have a large pocket to put the papers in and a clear plastic slot to display the vendor’s badge. 

UFCW representative Kristen Beifus says for a union representing retail and grocery workers, the move just makes sense and is in line with the union’s goals.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our members to help support Real Change vendors, which we see are community workers out on the streets, and the opportunity for them to be a little safer and safety in the workplace is really important and also to sell more papers,” Beifus said.

She says Real Change vendors were very supportive of grocery workers during tough contract negotiations several years ago, sometimes even handing out UFCW flyers as they sold papers.

According to the nonprofit organization that runs Real Change, street papers around the world have found that bright vests make vendors easier to see and makes them more approachable, increasing their chance of success.

In addition to local unions, Granite Construction, which has a construction supply shop in Everett, printed the first 200 vests for free and will print the remaining 500 at cost.

Real Change does face challenges, like the fact that people don’t carry single dollar bills.

You can now use the Venmo app to purchase from a vendor. Real Change Founding Director Tim Harris says it’s been more successful than a previous app that was too cumbersome.

He says one of the biggest challenges right now is just getting the word out about what Real Change does. He says their story was more widely known ten years ago. Now, he says, with so many people being priced out of the city and newcomers arriving,  fewer people are aware of the street paper concept.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.