The Contributor, Nashville’s homeless newspaper.
The contributor is Nashville’s one and only newspaper concerning homelessness in Nashville Tn. The Contributor is not some left wing propaganda rag, bent on manipulating your emotions towards sympathy for the plight of the homeless. Within the paper you will find a wide range of articles from many different perspectives, including some you might not expect. Some of the articles in the paper, though written by homeless people, have nothing to do with homelessness.
Besides issues regarding homelessness, you’re likely to find articles in the Contributor on Sports, Film, Politics; you’ll even find humor pieces, comics and a monthly horoscope. Most of the articles you’ll find in the Contributor have been written by homeless and formerly homeless people. So, The Contributor employs the homeless in a couple ways. Homeless people work at creating the content of the paper, and they work at selling the paper on the streets. For all those people tell the homeless to “Get A Job” the contributor is the perfect answer. No longer do homeless people have to panhandle. Now they can earn an honest wage as a Contributor Vendor. If you really want to help the homeless, encourage them to become a vendor.
Here is how it works. Every Tuesday at 10am homeless people, and really, anyone needing to make a few bucks, can go to the offices of The Contributor, which are currently inside the Downtown Presbyterian Church on 5th and Church street, where they will receive training on how to be a vendor. The training lasts about an hour and a half. At the end of the training each new vendor is given 15 copies of the paper for free. They are then sent out to try their luck at selling the paper. Once they’ve made a few dollars, they can come back to the Contributor offices to purchase more copies of the paper for a quarter a piece. The asking price is 1 dollar per paper, and the vendor gets to keep the difference. According to the National Coalition for The Homeless, vendors actually average 2 dollars per paper they sell. Yes tipping is allowed, and encouraged. Some homeless use the money they make just to afford a decent meal from time to time. Others work at it full time and are able to get housing and pay rent with the money they make selling the paper. When a homeless person in Nashville enters the Housing First program of the Metro Homelessness Commission, their rent is subsidized by a section 8 voucher. But the homeless person is still required to make at least a minimum payment of 50 dollars towards his rent. Because of The Contributor, not only are homeless people working, and making an income, they are actually securing housing, and are leaving homelessness. I don’t think you could come up with a better reason than that to support The Contributor, and its vendors. The administration work of the Contibutor is currently being done by two volunteers and one paid intern who is being paid so little for his efforts that he really should be considered a volunteer as well. But the paper is growing rapidly. Last month, they printed 7 thousand copies, and sold out in just 3 weeks. This month, they are printing 10 thousand copies in an attempt to meet the demand. And, last months paper was 16 pages, this month will have 24 pages of content! I will have an article of mine published in the Contributor as well, 2000 words long, the first installment of a three part series about the winter shelter program in Nashville called Room In The Inn. The staff puts in a lot of hours making The Contributor what it is, and it is hoped that soon there will be enough support for the paper that they can get paid a little bit for their time and effort. To help support The Contributor you can purchase ad space for your business, or you can purchase a subscription to the paper 25$ for a year. Or you can donate directly to them on their webpage, which is nashvillecontributor.org. Someone is also having a benefit for the paper on January 2nd at the Downtown Presbyterian Church at 6pm to help raise awareness and funds in support of The Contributor. The Contributor is a NEWS PAPER and as such enjoys certain constitutional protections. Still, vendors of this news paper are being harassed on a daily basis by certain members of the police force. They accuse the vendors of “solicitation” and tell the vendors that they have to stop what they are doing and leave the area. What these policemen are doing is unconstitutional. I myself have never been bothered by the police while selling the paper. But I hear from other vendors. These police officers never actually arrest any of the vendors, they just use their ability to intimidate so to get their way. The fact that The Contributor is a newspaper about homelessness does not change the fact that the paper is a true newspaper and is protected by the 1st Amendment. All vendors have been instructed as to their rights, and to comply with all Federal, State, and local laws. If the harassment continues I guess it may necessitate securing the services of a lawyer. If you know any police officers, please talk to them and tell them to leave the vendors alone. Or, better yet, call the chief of police and tell him you want him to instruct his department about the Constitutional rights of homeless newspaper vendors.