Thursday, December 2, 2010

Twenty Pounds of Headlines Stapled to His Chest: Amplifier on the streets

David sells the Amplifier at the corner of Wall and Gay
There's a new, monthly newspaper on the street as of this month. It is the project of Redeeming Hope Ministries and is called "The Amplifier." Metropulse did probably the best write-up I've seen, but it has been mentioned on WBIR and The Sunsphere is Not a Wigshop. The idea is to give a small avenue toward gainful employment,by allowing homeless individuals the opportunity to purchase the papers for twenty-five cents and then sell them (technically it is a donation) for a dollar.

The idea has worked in other cities such as Nashville and Cincinatti, so there is a precedent. Ultimately, the idea is to have the content generated by homeless people, but Knoxville's version is starting of more modestly, with the content provided by members of the sponsoring church. Some of the topics covered include the election of Bill Haslam to the governorship, the opening of Minvilla Manor, the Ten Year Plan, profiles of homeless persons and a mixed bag of poetry and other creative writing.

When I first read about the idea I had a concern for the safety of the salesmen and women. It seems it could target them on the street as someone who probably has a few dollars. When I talked to David, he said he hasn't had any trouble. He seemed genuninely grateful for the opportunity. I've also read a comment on another site that suggested the idea is simply a bandaid that legitimizes panhandling and is doomed to failure. I'll agree with the bandaid part, but I'll hope the rest is wrong.

It seems to me this can only help. It gives the people selling the papers a productive way to get money. The content has the potential to provide a different perspective. I also think it gives the rest of us an opportunity to have a non-threatening conversation with the people who are homeless on our streets. When I wrote the recent series of posts on panhandlers, one of the side-themes that emerged from my conversations with those who help the homeless is that only relationships can truely help them begin the journey to restoring some order to their lives. A dollar and a conversation doesn't seem like too much to ask for those of us who are so fortunate.

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