A street paper vendor sitting on the steps of the U.S. capitol building.
Colleen Cosgriff

When we began publishing this newspaper 15 years ago, we did so out of a belief that there were important voices missing from the discussion about homelessness and how it should be addressed. Washington, D.C., has long suffered from homelessness at rates higher than elsewhere in the nation. For decades, the gap between wages and the cost of housing in this city has widened, and we have seen more of our neighbors forced out of their homes and into our streets and shelters. We can do more as a community to address and end homelessness. If we are going to solve our homelessness crisis — and we must — we first have to gain an accurate understanding of its causes and those it affects most directly.

From our very first edition, published in November 2003, Street Sense has provided a vehicle through which all of us can learn about homelessness from those who have experienced it. In that way, we are unique. Nowhere else in this city can you consistently hear and learn from people who have experienced homelessness, in their own words.

Our vendors work hard, every day, to deliver this opportunity.

Our hope is that after reading our paper, you will see and understand the issue of homelessness differently, free from the myths and stereotypes often perpetuated elsewhere on the media landscape. We hope you will engage in discussions about what you read on these pages — with your family, your co-workers, the vendors who write for and sell the paper, and with policymakers at the local and federal level. Our hope is that the newspaper acts as an agent of change, not just for the people who publish and sell it but for the greater community. Ultimately, we hope the paper contributes to a discussion that eventually rids our community of homelessness.

During one week every February, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), of which we are a proud member, celebrates the work of street paper vendors worldwide. We normally observe this week by inviting local celebrities to sell our paper for a few hours. This year, we are celebrating by turning up the volume of the voices that our vendors bring to our community.

#VendorWeek 2018 - Video Montage

Video by the International Network of Street Papers.

This edition celebrates in a special way what we do in every paper throughout the year: raise the voices of men and women who have experienced homelessness, out of a hope that those voices contribute to a new understanding of the issue and ultimately motivate a community and political will to eradicate it.

More recently, since 2013, we have built upon the success of the paper by adding new platforms from which our vendors can express their ideas and opinions. Today, our vendors are raising up their voices through theater, film, spoken word, photography, podcasts and illustration. Each voice enriches our community and, we hope, brings us towards a fuller understanding of homelessness and how it affects us all.

Because it does affect us all.

Thank you for celebrating with us this week through your purchase of this paper. If you are moved by something you read here, we hope you will share your thoughts with a neighbor and start a conversation with the vendor whose writing touched you. Such conversations can help build a stronger community and enrich the lives of all of us.