Oklahoma City Council is about to vote on a proposal that would make it illegal for anyone to stand, sit, or walk on a median [the area that separates opposing lanes of traffic on divided roadways] in Oklahoma City.
INSP’s street paper in the area, The Curbside Chronicle, fears that this law will stop their vendors from being able to sell the paper, thus putting the vendors’ livelihoods – and the continuation of the award-winning paper – in jeopardy. INSP has written an open letter to Oklahoma City Council, urging them to reconsider this plan. You can read the letter below.
Scroll down for more information on the issue from The Curbside Chronicle’s editor Ranya O’Connor.
If you would like to contact Oklahoma City Council about this issue, you can find contact details here.
12 October 2015
Dear Oklahoma City Council,
INSP (International Network of Street Papers) is concerned to hear of the proposed ordinance in Oklahoma City banning sales from the median of public streets. Our member street paper The Curbside Chronicle stands to be severely affected should this ordinance pass, as many of their vendors sell their excellent publication from your city’s medians.
We urge Oklahoma City to vote against this proposition on 8 December and to recognise the pioneering work your city’s street paper has done in offering support and hope to local people experiencing poverty and homelessness.
Street papers are independent publications that provide employment opportunities and social programmes for people experiencing unemployment and homelessness. Vendors buy copies of the street paper at a price of 50% (or lower) than the cover price, then sell the street papers, keeping the proceeds. In addition to employment, many INSP street papers (including The Curbside Chronicle) offer their vendors ongoing support and access to practical and social development resources and opportunities.
The 13,000 people currently selling street papers across the world are all micro-entrepreneurs, who have taken the opportunity of a viable alternative to panhandling.
INSP currently supports more than 100 street papers in some 36 countries. Street papers enable homeless and long term unemployed people to be actively employed and supported, thereby lessening their burden on the state. Many of our street papers enjoy a strong and positive partnership with their local and national governments. Working together, they have witnessed significant change and improvement in their community. Many of our members report a significant reduction in crime due to the street paper providing individuals with a legitimate source of income, as well as stability in their lives.
The Curbside Chronicle is one of INSP’s newer members, but it has the makings to follow in the footsteps of established publications, such as The Big Issue in the UK, Hus Forbi in Denmark and Real Change in Seattle, and continue to develop as a powerful social business. Over the past two decades, street papers have given more than 250,000 people the means to make a legitimate income. Worldwide, street paper vendors made more than $38m in 2014.
Since The Curbside Chronicle joined INSP in 2014, we have been impressed with the creativity and innovation displayed by their dedicated team. They recently won Cover of the Year at the INSP Awards 2015, for a striking cover that addressed gang violence in America. Their work was highly praised by our panel of judges, which included: Kollin Min, senior programme officer for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Mark Neil, creative director of Time Out London; Belinda Goldsmith, editor-in-chief of Thomson Reuters Foundation; and renowned photographer David Burnett.
In addition to their exceptional social impact, we strongly believe that The Curbside Chronicle is a vital independent voice in the media landscape. They are frequent contributors to our INSP News Service, which allows street papers to share content and therefore work together in a global movement against poverty.
INSP believes that Oklahoma City should be very proud to be home to such a dynamic and socially-aware paper. We urge you to do everything in your power to support The Curbside Chronicle in giving the people of your fine city the chance to access steady employment and to transition out of homelessness and into housing. Or, as many of our members like to describe their work, A Hand Up not a Hand-Out.
INSP Chief Executive
The Curbside Chronicle editor Ranya O’Connor explains the situation in Oklahoma:
“Oklahoma City is proposing an ordinance that would make it illegal for anyone to stand, sit, or walk on a median in Oklahoma City. This is an attempt to address people panhandling in the medians in OKC.
“While Curbside vendors are not panhandlers, they too use medians to interact with motorists. Over 80% of our vendors sell from the median to motorists because OKC is very spread out with very little foot traffic. If this ordinance were to pass, our vendors would no longer be able to sell to motorists in OKC from medians and their employment with Curbside would be jeopardised. We do not have enough foot traffic to employ the growing number of vendors reliant on us for their financial needs.
“People who continue to stand and solicit from medians will be issued hefty fines up to $500 and could possibly face jail time. We do not agree with this punitive way of addressing panhandling in OKC. We believe that this ordinance criminalizes people in poverty and will not be effective. This ordinance does nothing to address the reasons why people panhandle. It merely attempts to punish people who do so while also hurting an organisation actively trying to provide a positive alternative to panhandlers through employment with Curbside.
“OKC City Council was supposed to vote on this issue on 13 October but have just pushed their vote back to 8 December.
“We have until 8 December to show OKC City Council that there are more progressive, effective, and humane ways to address panhandling in OKC.
“I know that INSP’s papers speaking out about their success worldwide can definitely help us in this situation! Many cities across the U.S. right now are having to repeal laws that criminalize homelessness and poverty. The more OKC hears about this in other communities and cities, the better chance we have of defeating this ordinance.”