INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.
Nina Martinez is the board president of The Denver VOICE. Follow The Denver VOICE on social @DenverVOICE and learn more at www.denvervoice.org.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
The Denver VOICE is a monthly street newspaper that provides economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in the Denver metro area. Our vendor program provides homeless and/or impoverished individuals with a chance to take their first steps towards a more stable life. Vendors purchase newspapers from the Denver VOICE for 50 cents each, and sell their papers for a suggested donation of $2. Any donation vendors collect in exchange for a newspaper—including any amount over the suggested $2 donation—is theirs to keep.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Our mission is to facilitate a dialogue addressing the roots of homelessness by telling stories of people whose lives are impacted by poverty and homelessness and to offer economic, educational, and empowerment opportunities for the impoverished community.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Since 2007, we have employed more than 4,000 people through our vendor program. The vendor program is designed to give individuals experiencing homelessness, poverty, or those in need of an immediate income the opportunity to work. Vendors might be physically living on the streets, or they might be housed but out of a job or in need of additional living income.
Our vendor program provides homeless and/or impoverished individuals with a chance to take their first steps towards a more stable life. The issues that often underlie homelessness tend to make it very difficult for someone experiencing homelessness to obtain and keep a regular job. The combination of income-earning opportunities, job-flexibility, and job-training offered by our vendor program give a struggling individual the chance to work a flexible schedule, learn (or re-learn) workplace expectations, and earn sufficient income to move off the street.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
The individuals we work with inspire us every day. Each individual VOICE Vendor has a unique story to share. We also cover homelessness and social justice issues and publish stories and points of view that are under reported, and that offer insight into diverse communities in the Denver area.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our big dream for The Denver VOICE is to become a street newspaper that is published twice per month, rather than monthly, and potentially have a second city circulation outside of the city of Denver. The impact we hope to make is to create a crucial awareness of issues that our homeless and impoverished Vendors face daily, in regards to being marginalized and often times pushed out of our society, in hopes that we can truly create a community that understands and seeks to overcome the stigma toward those we serve.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
In order to grow our newspaper publication and circulation efforts, The Denver VOICE is really in need of some key financial partners that have a desire to be a part of this larger dialogue surrounding homelessness and poverty, partners that want to see the VOICE used as a change agent in this conversation.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
One of our challenges is explaining to supporters the unique opportunity that lies within the Vending Program at The Denver VOICE. Our program falls into a middle ground between offering a job and a small business opportunity. As an unconventional job, it allows the individuals who sell the paper to set their own hours and function as their own boss, essentially providing them the means to start their own (very) small business. This occupational leverage is vital to these individuals, most of whom can’t function in a normal work setting due to physical and/or mental obstacles. In this way, they are able to earn the income needed to cover basic needs.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Start where you are, doing what you can, for those that you can reach. It all starts somewhere.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
There are many ways to support The Denver VOICE. For financial support, you can donate online. We also have a Vendor Needs List on Amazon, which you can purchase from and then send directly to our office. The needs list includes items such as hand sanitizer, water, and deodorant. We’d also love to have you join the conversation through monthly eNews updates! Sign up for our newsletter!
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