City Attorney Teaming With Newspaper That Helps The Homeless To Find Fugitives

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UPDATED: Wednesday August 13, 2014 6:34 PM

It is a paper with a purpose.

"Street Speech" is a monthly newspaper aimed at raising awareness about homelessness in Columbus.

Those who sell the papers need no education on the topic- they are or have been homeless.

Now a new partnership aims expand the paper’s mission from social consciousness to social justice.

Walk by the High Street Starbucks near OSU any weekday afternoon, and you'll likely run into Joseph Ramirez.

Today, he stands on this sidewalk earning a living. It wasn't long ago that the sidewalk was where he slept. It started with a lost job.

"When they let me go I got behind on rent,” said Ramirez. “And eventually they evict you and put a sticker on your door. They shut your electric off, and you become homeless."

It sent him into a dark spiral of desperation that nearly claimed his life.

"I became very, very depressed and I tried to commit suicide several times because I decided to give up on life."

Then he became involved with Street Speech.

"The program teaches us to be sales people. It teaches us to be productive, to stay out of trouble,” he said.

Jess Peacock is the editor of Street Speech.

"As much as we are a charity to some extent, we also want this to be a real job," Peacock said.

He says all of the paper's vendors are homeless or formerly homeless.

"They come in and they purchase the paper for a quarter. And they can purchase however many they want."

Vendors then "sell" the paper in exchange for a donation.

What they earn, they keep.

"Survival. It amounts to survival for many of our vendors,” said Peacock. "It helps them eat. It helps them pay rent or buy clothes for their kids."

A recent “Street Speech” article on unapproved vendors caught the attention of Bill Hedrick at the Columbus City Attorney’s Office.

"I did look those up and saw one of the persons actually had criminal charges for selling the paper illegally, contacted the paper and let them know that our office was working on the case," Hedrick said.

He took the opportunity to pitch the paper on a partnership to help publicize the city's fugitive program.

"It provides them with content at no cost, and it also gets the word out on our fugitives program at no cost to us," said Hedrick.

Joseph Ramirez says the paper helped him turn a page in his life.

"I have no excuse anymore to be negative,” he said. “I have no excuse to be a panhandler, a beggar, a thief."

Now it has the chance to makes the streets where he works safer.

Peacock says “Street Speech” currently has between 40 and 50 vendors.

All of them are vetted and trained, and licensed with the city as street vendors.

LINK: Columbus Coalition for the Homeless

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