Nashville’s street paper – The Contributor – got a big pat on the back Wednesday from Mayor Karl Dean, who thanked some 400 vendors for what they do and wrote a glowing editorial for the latest issue. The homeless newspaper is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
Roughly a third of the paper’s vendors now make enough money to put a roof over their head. Seen one way, that means the paper has been more successful at helping homeless people get into housing than the Metro Homelessness Commission, which is funded by the city.
Mayor Dean won’t compare the two, but he does commend the private non-profit.
“The unique thing about The Contributor is their creation of individual responsibility and the individuals actually going out there and doing the work. That’s something they should be proud of, and I’m proud of them for doing it.”
Some of the vendors have now been selling papers for years.
Pat Fisher says her customers near Belle Meade are like family, bringing her gifts and giving her rides.
“At first it wasn’t so easy, though. We’d get dirty looks. And they were always trying to run us off. It was a big difference.”
Five years in, Contributor vendors still face pockets of resistance. This week a judge upheld an ordinance in Brentwood prohibiting sales to passing cars.
Founder Tasha French considers it a minor problem.
“Vendors can’t sell to cars in Brentwood and they’ve known that for a while. That stays the same. We’re disappointed with the judge’s decision and our attorneys are looking at the ruling to see if there is possibility for an appeal.”
The Contributor argued the Brentwood ordinance violated the 1st Amendment. The city says public safety is the primary concern.