Sandra Reggans-Hahan sells Street Roots at the Park Blocks on Wednesdays (Photo: Sean Danaher)

Street Roots Newspaper Needs Local Businesses’ Help

Street Roots is an award-winning newspaper that creates opportunities for Portland’s poor and homeless through their program of over 500 vendors. They are entrepreneurs in their own right. Each day, the flock of sellers buys the papers for $.25 and sells them for $1.00. This franchise distribution system provides them with income, a path towards self-sufficiency, and the dignity of running their own small business. Customers receive alternative news and forge cross-class relationships.

We met up with Sandra Reggans-Hahan, who sells papers at the Regal Cinema and Starbucks on the Park Blocks. Reggans-Hahn has a history of entrepreneurship. She previously ran a home health care agency and needed extra income while studying at university. A friend suggested she sell Street Roots. She’s become a mainstay in the community in the year since starting up, and says this work has broadened her personal and professional network. “It keeps you in contact with other people,” she says. “I started saving money and meeting new friends.” Customers have taken me ice skating, and my friends at the Multnomah County building recently threw me a birthday party,” she says.

Every year, Street Roots solicits gift certificates from local businesses to sell in an online auction in July to fund their efforts to run the paper and train vendors like Sandra in customer service. They are halfway to their goal. We are asking for your help to forge a bridge between this important engine for local economic mobility of our city’s most needy and the businesses you love and patronize.

We are looking for an additional $3500 in donated gift certificates for goods and services to help Street Roots meet their $7000 goal by June 22.

We can meet this goal with just 35 additional $100 gift certificates. Can you give 30 minutes of your time to reach out to your favorite restaurant, bar, or retailer, or donate a spare gift certificate?

Please visit this spreadsheet of businesses that have been contacted and need follow up. If you patronize or have contacts at any of these establishments, assign yourself to follow up, reach out by phone or email to encourage the owner to donate, and express your gratitude for their support. Here is the letter they received if you need to resend it. Once you receive a verbal commitment, indicate as much and Street Roots will follow up. Here’s a sample script:

“Hello! I am calling to follow up about a letter you may have received from Street Roots newspaper. Perhaps you’ve seen the vendors around town? It’s a a newspaper purchased and then sold by low-income people around Portland, and it’s an organization I believe in. We are seeking gift certificates for goods and services from our favorite businesses that will be sold on their online fundraiser on July 9. You are one of mine! Would you be willing to donate?”
If yes: “Thanks so much! We’ll be in touch to coordinate a good time to pick up the gift certificate.”
If no: “I appreciate your consideration!”

Or, you can also approach a new business you patronize or donate an unused gift certificate you have that might lying around the house. If you have those in hand, add them, assign yourself, and mark as donated.

We know that the easier process would be to give money directly, but approaching businesses raises awareness and builds relationships in the community. It sends a strong signal that we can care for one another not only through financial generosity, but by sharing the local goods and services that make Portland extraordinary with those who are on their own challenging and inspiring journey towards financial independence.

(Photo: Sean Danaher)

As always, you can find us at picoc.org, on Twitter, and on Facebook. View all of our monthly calls-to-action here. Special thanks to Sandra Reggans-Hahn, Israel Bayer, Sarah Cloud, and Cole Merkel of Street Roots. And very special thanks to photographer Sean Danaher.

Learn more about the homelessness in America in this TEDxPortland talk by Israel Bayer.