Teaching the homeless to self-respect

About the concept and idea behind Rotterdam’s ‘Straatnieuws’

When shopping at my local Albert Heijn I always spot an older man who stands right in front of the door trying to sell a specific magazine. Whether it is raining, snowing or a lovely sunny day he always seems to be there.

If you live in the Netherlands and specifically in Rotterdam you will have encountered people selling this magazine as well. Yet not everyone, including myself is familiar with what this magazine entails or who the people are who sell it. So I decided to investigate what motive this man could have for standing in the pouring rain all day selling a cheap magazine.

Well, ‘Straatnieuws’ as it is called is a magazine sold by the homeless with the aim of giving them the possibility of building up a legal income. This concept started in Europe in 1991 in London where the ‘The Big Issue’ was sold by the homeless in the city. Holland was not long after with their own version starting in 1994 in Utrecht. Other Dutch cities soon followed such as Den Haag, Arnhem and Nijmegen.

Rotterdam was also one of the first Dutch cities to follow this idea with a version named ‘De Rotterdamse Straatkrant’. This magazine soon disappeared off the streets though as there was enough money to finance it anymore. Nowadays Rotterdam has joined with Den Haag and has the magazine ‘Straatnieuws’ available to be sold by whoever needs this.

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The main idea behind this concept is to help the homeless in our community to earn a little income, gain some self-respect and also to inform the wider audience about the situation of these homeless people. When these people start selling the paper they can get a small loan to buy their first batch. The aim is for them to eventually start developing more responsibility in their work and to start making a decent income from the money they earn.

There are of course some rules set to restrict who can start selling this magazine. Each country has their own specific rules related to the sellers in their cities. In the Netherlands for example a check is made to ensure the seller is definitely homeless and living on the streets. Drugs and alcohol are also strictly prohibited for Dutch sellers. Not only on the job, but outside of selling the magazine as well.

Each seller also receives a card that they must show when asked to. The cards shows a photo, name and the seller’s individual number. This card proves they have gone through the checks and are eligible to sell this magazine on the streets. If sellers cannot show this card, then shopkeepers have the right to remove them from outside their shops. In this case the magazines are usually stolen and the profit, which is generated through advertising, does not get to the people working hardest for it.

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The magazine offers articles about multiple subjects, but mostly focuses on the life of people living on the streets of Rotterdam and Den Haag. Interviews are also often posted in the magazine, with an interview with the Pope being in the Utrecht magazine this month. The different cities and areas that offer these magazines all have quite a local approach to news to make it interesting for the audience buying it.

Therefore, there is no reason to give money and not take the magazine with you. The people running this organisation also strongly recommend the public to take the magazine when giving the seller money. It must stay a business transaction in order to accomplish its purpose. Giving more than the requested amount for the magazine is of course always allowed, but giving money with no return turns the transaction into an act charity. Beggars are often seen as a nuisance and not a lot of people would willingly give them money.

With a major aim of the magazine being to help the homeless gain some self-respect, keeping this idea as a business transaction works best. It makes sure that the seller believes they are worth something and they are giving something in return to people’s generosity. Once self-respect is gained it becomes easier for someone to change their life around. With the small income that this magazine offers them as well, new possibilities are shown to the people who thought all hope was lost.

With Holland having over 27 thousand people in 2012 who were homeless, I believe this magazine is a great idea to help bring this number down. The idea behind this concept is truly inspiring as it isn’t just giving money to the homeless, but teaching them to respect themselves and gives them the opportunity to get out of a situation that nobody wants to be in. And who wouldn’t see this as an idea to support?

 

 

 

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