WOULD YOU RATHER MAIL A CHECK?
Send it c/o 1Matters, 3450 W. Central #108, Toledo OH 43606
QUESTIONS? Call 567.694.JOBS (5627)
Have you ever felt stuck? Been in a situation that, no matter how hard you tried to get out of it, there didn’t seem to be a way out and you needed someone to come along and give you chance, to get you launched a bit? And from there you knew that your hard work could move you the rest of the way…
So it was for Lawrence Staler. He’d applied for literally hundreds of jobs and, despite having certifications and experience in several skills and trades, he couldn’t land anything simply because of a past for which he’d already done his time. Enter a little launchpad in the form of Toledo Streets. And launch Lawrence did.
Just two and half months later, we’ve had the honor of watching him go from frustrated and angry at the society he was trying to reenter to hearing him casually relate the conversations he’s having with judges and lawyers, cops and clerks – his customers down at the Toledo Municipal Courthouse. We’ve had the honor of seeing his face light up with each milestone: paying on his child support, starting a bank account, earning his family’s respect and support, making the goal (and the $20 reward) for selling 500 papers, earning a $50 match from the 1Matters Individual Development Account program (at last check he was up to $500 saved), and getting his driver’s license. We’ve even had the honor of being ribbed by him frequently when he buys papers, especially about when he makes the goal of selling his second round of 500 papers – which is just around the corner.
He likes to call me “boss lady” sometimes, but the truth is he works for himself. All our vendors do. He’s living proof that street papers work, because he’s been willing to work. He got the chance he needed to get “unstuck” and he’s worked his butt off to move himself the rest of the way.
Lawrence has never panhandled, at least to the best of our knowledge. He has too much dignity to ask for a handout. But we’ve still seen his self-esteem climb over the last few weeks, something we know wouldn’t happen if he’d started “flying a sign” at a freeway exit, constantly marketing himself as a stereotype and an object of pity. While both panhandlers and Toledo Streets vendors both want your spare change, that’s where the similarity ends. Vendors aren’t asking something for nothing – they have a product to give you. They are selling the paper. Panhandlers, on the other hand, are selling themselves. Their very approach means they’re selling themselves short.
We wish we could reach everyone out there who’s panhandling. We don’t begrudge them the effort they’re trying to make. We just know that selling the paper is a much more rewarding effort that goes far beyond dollar signs. We want to see everyone take the opportunity to go from pitiful to powerful. We want to see more Lawrences – see their faces light up, see them showing off their new bank account or driver’s license or rental agreement. We want to hear more stories of the interactions between vendors and their customers. We even want to get ribbed more by vendors who know that we’re in this with them, that we represent a whole bunch of people, including YOU, who are supporting them and rooting for them.
Not everyone who’s panhandling or everyone who’s unhoused is ready to sell the paper. It’s not a one-size-fits-all program. But for those who are stuck and are willing to work, they need this launchpad called Toledo Streets. And Toledo Streets needs YOU, our community partners. We need your voice online and in the community, telling people about the paper and the people selling it. We need your support when you come across the vendors, both in dollars and smiles. We need you to show a different sort of compassion by handing panhandlers these coupons to a better alternative. And we need your direct support of the paper to reach out to more Lawrences, who are ready to work hard and realize that
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SMALL CHANGE.