Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A different kind of magazine

 Streetwise is a magazine that empowers the homeless and the unemployed by giving them the opportunity to become a vendor, and by granting them a space to express themselves. Streetwise is, in my opinion, like a big family. A family allows its members to thrive. And so does Streetwise.
  I came across this magazine when I was in line to enter the Art Institute of Chicago. A vendor explained the purpose of selling the magazine and I bought it. (It costs two dollars). In addition to play reviews, Chicago calendar events and interesting social articles, I found a very inspiring read about one of the vendors: Jeff Berg.
 Jeff was a maintenance technician for a company that packaged machinery, but he was laid off in 2009. After not being able to pay the monthly payments for his house, he became homeless. He lost his home; he lost his car. He had to file for bankruptcy and lost almost everything, except for his persistence and his dignity.
 After going from shelter to shelter he found one that would take him. His case manager introduced him to Streetwise and he became a Streetwise vendor in April 2011. Jeff said, " I have to be proactive. I can't expect someone to come hand me money. I have to be out there everyday doing what I can to support myself. I have to be a part of society".
  As I write this, the words of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling come to my mind:

 "If you can watch the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools.
If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them 'Hold on'".

Another article I enjoyed reading was about some homeless people who were able to complete college thanks to a renewable $2,000 scholarship awarded to them by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).
   These people undergo all kinds of struggles, and they never give up. They are an inspiration to all of us. Check more about them yourself . You'll be surprised: http://streetwise.org/


  1. How very cool! Sounds like a worthwhile project to support.

  2. Thanks for your support, Karen. If you know people in Chicago, feel free to spread the word.

  3. In short, inspiring. Jeff personifies fortitude. Not many of us would continue going with such a positive attitude after being knocked down like that.

  4. That's so inspiring! I'm always amazed by some people's determination to succeed. Makes me feel good about humanity again.


    1. It is inspiring. It is so inspiring that after reading about them, I forgot all about my "petty troubles".

  5. There is a similar newspaper here in Sacramento sold by homeless people and written by homeless people. I buy it when it's for sale and have conversations with the "vendors", and I'm always reminded that it could be any one of us out there in such a predicament. These are not "shiftless" people. Disaster has struck their lives and they are doing the best they can to meet the challenge. I'm glad you wrote this post.

    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. You are right. Any of us could end up in that situation. It's good to know that the same project is alive in Sacramento.

  6. Julia, thank you for sharing the link to this post. That Streetwise program in Chicago is wonderful! I came across something similar when I lived in San Francisco years ago. I’d pay a dollar or two for the street magazine, a small price to pay and it was full of information on local musicians, theater, tourist attractions, and included art, poetry and stories written by the homeless.

    Jeff Berg’s story is very inspiring. I think the kind of persistence and dignity he displayed is found so often among those who find themselves homeless and are struggling to do what they can to support themselves. This belies the idea some people have that most of the homeless are addicts or mentally ill (as I wrote in my comment on your recent post). Although some are addicts or mentally ill, many more of the homeless are just like Jeff Berg, hard-working people made homeless after losing jobs and homes, and all they want is to get back on their feet. Some have families. This makes programs like Streetwise so important. I really like what the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is doing with the renewable scholarship program. The Rudyard Kipling verse fits perfectly here. Excellent post!

    1. Thank you, Jersey!
      Yes, I think his story is inspiring.


I appreciate each and every comment. Thank you.