An Oklahoma City woman is hailed a hometown hero by Glamour magazine. But she credits her success on those who hit the streets each day selling a magazine geared to making a difference.
Ranya O’Connor is the Director of The Curbside Chronicle, a bi-monthly “street paper” about homelessness.
“It's definitely a new idea and a new concept in this city,” she said. “The support from the community has been astounding.”
O’Connor and her husband Whitley started The Curbside Chronicle in July of 2013. It’s the state's first and only street paper with the goal of employing the homeless.
“I was living in my truck, picking up scrap metal,” said Gary Fields, who is employed by the publication.
Fields is among more than 200 homeless people trained to be vendors and one of 30 who are right now, on the streets, not to beg but to sell.
“Like my sign says hand up not a hand out,” he said.
A hand up that has allowed him to finally get his own apartment. Vendors buy the magazines for $0.75 each, and then sell them for $2, keeping the profits.
“It helps me pay my rent and pay my bills and if it wasn't for the magazines, I’d be back on the streets,” he said.
Every other month, 10,000 copies of the magazine go out. The content is a mix of current events going on in the city and bringing attention to the issues of homelessness and the people living it.
“We know it exists in our community but as to the day to day struggles what it's like, we don't really have any knowledge of that so our vendors can share their stories and those experiences,” O’Connor said.
In turn, the exchange builds relationships between the two very different worlds.
“I like meeting new people, people are awesome out there, nice to me,” Fields said. “I love my job, I love my boss, and it works out pretty good.”
“We want to employ people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness but we also want to educated the community and bridge the gap between people who are in that situation and those who are not and kind of bring them together and create a positive interaction between them,” O’Connor said.
The program serves as a way to transition homeless people to long term employment and housing. In fact, since 2013, 15 vendors have been able to get off the streets and into their own place.
Beginning in January, the Curbside Chronicle will become a monthly publication. For more on the program or to help out through advertising, just click here: http://thecurbsidechronicle.org/