When a new city ordinance takes effect Sept. 18 banning people from passing or receiving money or goods through car windows on city streets, homeless street newspaper vendors will feel the financial impact, according to the newspaper’s owner.
“That is going to be a big crimp in business, and we’re trying to change our business model,” says Paul Gangarosa, owner of the Lowcountry Herald. Founded in 2014 and publishing monthly, the Herald prints 1,000 copies of each issue, which vendors offer to pedestrians and motorists in exchange for donations. According to Gangarosa, the company gives the newspapers to vendors for free and lets them keep the donations they receive.
City Council members and police officials cited safety concerns when discussing the new car-window ordinance, but the rule was introduced after a rash of complaints from residents who didn’t like seeing panhandlers holding signs and asking for money near intersections.
Selling the Herald serves as an alternative to panhandling for many homeless people, and Gangarosa says independent sellers will have a hard time making sales when police start enforcing the new rule, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail or a $1,092 fine.
To adapt to the ordinance, Gangarosa says he’ll encourage vendors to start selling on sidewalks, including near the College of Charleston and the hospital district. He says distributors are also reaching out to churches asking permission to sell papers in their parking lots after worship services let out on Sundays.
Ultimately, Gangarosa says he hopes vendors will be able to connect with their buyers, as vendors have done in other cities with street newspapers.
“The business model in other cities for this is that vendors are on their street and people get to know their vendors. Over time they see the same person over and over, so it reduces the stigma,” Gangarosa says. “We really see part of our mission as not just providing them a way to make an income, but also advocacy and education to the public about homelessness so people realize these people aren’t just drug-addicted bums. Anybody can be homeless.”
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