If you are reading this issue of Street Sense, you have already most likely met a Street Sense vendor. Such was my case when I began commuting to DC on the Metro and bought my first copy of Street Sense. Afterward, I became a regular customer of the vendors who were near the stations I frequented, and they became friendly faces in the crowd for me. That was the extent of my engagement.

But more recently I decided I wanted to know more about the lives of these vendors. I started volunteering a few hours a week at the Street Sense headquarters. Now I am acquainted not just with individual vendors, but I have also discovered the significance of the whole group of vendors who fan out over the DC metro area. It is a perspective that I hope more readers will attain.

As a group, these newspaper vendors are DC residents whom everyone who works or lives in DC should know. They may not have a roof over their heads, but they are striving to make DC a better place for themselves and others who cannot afford what it costs to live in DC. They are working to overcome challenges that are greater than what many of us have ever faced.

Many Street Sense vendors take part in civic action and strive to educate others about what it means to tackle homelessness. They attend writing workshops and learn computer skills at the Street Sense office. They learn how to tell their stories both in print and with video and photography. Most important, they are willing to stand on the street and engage with the rest of us.

Thus, ask yourself whether you recognize the work that your vendor is doing. They welcome your patronage and support, but they prove each day that they do not want your pity. They have talents and abilities beyond what you might assume. Your goal should be to watch these friends blossom. Expect to see progress. Encourage each one you see! Don’t be afraid to engage with your fellow Washingtonians. They’ve summoned the courage to be there to talk to you.