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Columbus Street Speech

Posted on 07 February 2018

This February YXU has partnered with Street Speech Columbus to highlight members of the Columbus community battling homelessness. For more information about Street Speech and its parent organization, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, visit


In 2008 a group of volunteers was assembled to develop a program that would help to address the issue of joblessness among Columbus’ swelling population of homeless citizens. As our city began prospering many of our most vulnerable who lived in poorer neighborhoods were being pushed out of their homes in the name of progress. This is what is known as gentrification to those who work in the world of social service.

Street Speech was born as a program to give a hand up to those facing income instability. This publication, a newspaper produced monthly, is sold to “vendors” who purchase the paper wholesale at $.35 and sold for a donation. There is no set amount of this donation but a dollar is a recommended amount. This employment program was being used around the world with notable success, and Columbus was an ideal location for this endeavor.

Street Speech is licensed through the City of Columbus. The vendors must display a badge with their picture in order to legally sell the paper. This is so that they can be easily identified by the public and law enforcement. The badges are renewed every six months, but vendors must be in good standing to qualify for an updated badge. They must adhere to a code of conduct to be in good standing with the program.

The vendors are ambassadors for the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless. When you meet a vendor on the streets of Columbus, they are trained to be polite and knowledgeable about the product they are selling. They know they are the face of the cause and they present themselves as such.

The vendors work rain or shine. Snow or heat wave. They are some of the most resilient people you will ever encounter. Some days are brutal for them as they can be met with hostile people grumbling negative comments. Most say that they shrug it off because the work they do gives them a sense of purpose. They have regular customers who boost them up which helps to bolster their spirits. They feel empowered as they hold their heads high with pride. They feel satisfied to know they have a purpose.

I invite you to take a moment of your time and get to know your local vendor. Seek out one of these incredible men or women when you are in the downtown area. Ask them about themselves and how they feel about being a Street Speech vendor. You will come away from the experience with a better understanding of the plight of those struggling under the weight of poverty. Your heart will be fuller knowing you made a real connection.


Written by Shannan Anderson

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