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Why Dignity City? Reflections on the power of work and community

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

By Timothy Harris

Executive Director

Simply put, I believe in street papers. Dignity City builds upon decades of experience to bring opportunity and a voice for homeless people to new communities. With the launch of this news site, the serious organizing begins.

With your support, Dignity City will be available this March for sales on the street. We will grow this project from the humble beginnings you see here to become a powerful, regional voice for homeless and low-income people.

While major west coast cities like Seattle and Portland have had street papers for more than twenty years, if you’re homeless in a smaller community like Tacoma or Spokane, you’re pretty much out of luck.

That’s unfortunate, because the need is everywhere. Pierce County, for example, has 3,300 homeless competing for roughly 1,000 shelter beds. It’s a tragic situation that demands solutions.

The vision for Dignity City is nothing if not ambitious: create a regional street paper to support a regional approach to ending homelessness. Nurture local partnerships that can support vendors across multiple communities.

Focus on what’s most important: opportunity, community, and ensuring that people who struggle for survival are both seen and heard.

Part of the street paper appeal is that our need for work and community is neither left nor right. Dignity City supports practical, evidence-based solutions to homelessness and seeks to engage supporters across the political divide.

We don’t all need to see things the same way. But we do need to leave our comfort zones, hear each other’s truths, and work toward solutions that benefit us all.

I believe in street papers because I’ve seen what success looks like. Selling a street paper isn’t just about the cash. Street papers are a powerful antidote to the dehumanizing experience of homelessness itself.

During my 26 years of leading Real Change, nearly 15,000 vendors passed through our doors. And a vast community of supporters evolved to encourage their success.

This space — where vendors and their supporters come together — is where everyday people get to say, “I see you, and I care.” That’s where the magic happens.

During these highly polarized and difficult times, I believe that the essentially humanizing mission of street papers is more necessary than ever.

When people see vendors working to help themselves, the fears and prejudices that keep us apart diminish and fall away. We become more real to each other. Change — both personal and political — becomes both more urgent and possible.

This is the vision behind Dignity City. And your support makes that possible. Reaching our audacious start-up goal of raising $75,000 won’t be easy, but with enough people helping, anything is possible.

Keep an eye on this space. Sign up for updates at Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook and Instagram. Big things start small, and we hope you’ll be part of the journey.

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