A sign that reads "gentrification in progress, there'll be cupcakes".
MsSaraKelly / Flickr

Selling Street Sense supplements my income to buy food, pay rent, and pay for my cell phone. It’s not an easy task for any vendor. We struggle with rising prices in the District and so do our customers. Many of my customers have told me they moved out of the city because it is much cheaper to live elsewhere and commute. We all know the cost of rent is horrendous, but so are prices for other basic things we all need to survive, like food. When longtime customers move and are not spending as much time in the city, that trickles down to other stores and to your local Street Sense Media vendor. The difficulty of keeping a roof over your head, paying taxes and paying your bills all adds up. People just can’t stretch, let alone budget, on minimum wage any more than I can on $200 of food stamps.

In fact, my food stamps have already been cut by $3. Food prices from farmers’ markets or supermarkets like Safeway, Giant, Walmart, Whole Foods or Aldi are pretty much the same. You would think that farmers’ markets would be cheaper to buy fruits and veggies, but they’re not, even though farmers’ markets do accept food stamps through matching programs. When a recipient with food stamps buys 10 “chips,” the market will match it with another free 10 chips. Farmers’ market meat prices can be slightly higher, charging 30 cents more per pound of meat than some conventional supermarkets.

The D.C. government is in the process of increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour. I don’t have a problem with paying a living wage, but I do have a problem in situations where that causes prices to go up and makes it harder for people to get ahead.

What I propose is that our politicians freeze prices for at least ten years, especially on food, healthcare and pharmaceutical supplies/medicine; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; only make people pay one-third of their income for housing; and make it so that buying a car is no longer a luxury for some folks, because they need it to go to work and some cities don’t have adequate public transportation.

Prices need to come down if families, young adults and senior citizens are going to live stress-free lives and be able to save for one or two luxury items during their lifetimes. Also, we need more housing for people who have mental illnesses. I don’t mean hospitals, but housing with adequate clinical social workers, doctors and nurses, Once people feel there is a change going on within themselves, they can have proper housing and resources, rather than having to be put out on the streets or living in shelters that strip them of their dignity and hope. Let’s have a movement to bring down prices for everyone. Prices are hurting the average Americans who simply want to live, enjoy life and raise a family.