Franklin’s Leap of Faith
....The Contributor’s Director of Vending gives an important update on the current state of newspaper vending in Franklin, Tennessee
Since 2007, The Contributor has been for sale on and from sidewalks in Nashville, Tenn. What began with a group of 10 homeless and formerly homeless vendors and a few volunteers has grown into the largest distributing street newspaper in North America (by circulation) and the largest in the world (circulation per capita). Last year, 400 vendors sold 115,000 copies every month. Vendors, who determine their own sales locations, have spread from the sidewalks of downtown Nashville to the far reaches of Davidson County—and beyond. For over five years, these micro-businessmen and -women have been putting a face on homelessness and demonstrating how the general public can help address the issue.
Nashville, Tenn., was an ideal incubator for The Contributor. With time, the message of “Homeless Paper – $1.00 – Thanks” found a home in the buckle of the Bible Belt where members of the homeless community could find a respectable and dignified alternative to panhandling. We also realized that our mission includes the face-to-face interactions that take place daily between people who have experienced homelessness and people who have not. That speech is changing lives on both sides of the economic divide.
Thus, growth was the norm. In 2008, The Contributor distributed 5,900 copies; in 2009, 56,000 copies; in 2010, 580,000 copies; and in 2011, 1.3 million copies were distributed. The vendor force grew from 10 to 400 per month. Vendors began to find markets outside of Nashville, southwards to Brentwood and Franklin and northwards to Goodlettsville and Hendersonville.
In late 2010, early 2011, the city of Brentwood, Tenn., cited seven vendors of The Contributor newspaper for vending on its sidewalks. The vendors went before the local court with a pro-bono attorney and were found guilty of violating Brentwood’s ordinance. The only problem at this point was that the ordinance in effect at that time was unconstitutional. Modifications were made to the Brentwood ordinance which resulted in a ban on any vendor to vehicle occupant sales. A lawsuit resulted which is still in process challenging modifications made to the Brentwood ordinance.
Fast-forward to 2013, when Franklin began considering a law similar to Brentwood’s. The ordinance that was finally adopted reflects what Alderman Dana McClendon called “a leap of faith.”