Photo of a single U.S. dime coin sitting on a table.
Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

“An extra dime is nothing. We want Street Sense to stick around and if it means an extra 10 cents on our part, no problem.”  

I’ll never forget that comment from a vendor, whose name I don’t even recall, but who was sitting by the door at a very crowded vendor meeting at the end of March. Though the subject was the harsh realities of money, the comment deeply touched my heart. Here was a roomful of vendors, many who still sleep on the street and struggle to pay for basics such as food, and here they were, ready to lend the little financial support they could to make sure Street Sense stays strong.  

I had come to the vendor meeting that day armed with a one-sheet proposal for all vendors to review. The topic: increasing the cost of the paper – to the vendors and to the readers.  

We were trying to find ways we could quickly increase income here at Street Sense during these difficult financial times. I was honestly quite nervous about broaching such a taboo topic; besides on special issue last November the cost of the paper has always been $1 and for the past four years the vendors have paid 25 cents to the organization for each paper.  

After explaining to the vendors how the staff and board were making sacrifices and cutting expenses and finding ways to raise more revenue, the three options I laid out were: 

1) Raise the cost to the vendor to 35 cents, keep the reader’s price $1.

2) Raise the cost to the vendor to 35 cents, raise the reader’s price to $1.50.

3) Raise the cost to the vendor to 50 cents, raise the reader’s price to $2.

The vendors overwhelmingly went with option #1, and it took very little convincing. While the other two options would have kept their percentage of profit about the same as the 25/$1 set up, the vendors were not in favor of those options because they had readers like you in mind. They said that readers might not be willing – or able – to pay the extra 50 cents or $1. A few vendors mentioned they have plenty of customers who recently lost jobs or had pay cutbacks.  

The vendors also argued that an extra dime a paper is nothing much to them, but multiplied by 90 vendors can really help Street Sense. In expressing their votes, many vendors said how much Street Sense means to them or has helped them, so they were perfectly fine to do their part to help the organization succeed so it could assist more homeless individuals.  

I was touched by their votes in favor of 35 cents and gained a new respect for many of the vendors. Rather than asking the public the classic phrase of “Brother, can you spare a dime?” they were all proclaiming to the public. “Sure, we can spare a dime.” And they were doing so readily, out of love, respect, or combination of the two for Street Sense.