As Real Change Expands to Eastside, Vendors Worry About Stigma

Nov 21, 2013

Buddy McArdle, a Real Change newspaper vendor, was in Bellevue to recruit new vendors for the papers expansion.
Buddy McArdle, a Real Change newspaper vendor, was in Bellevue to recruit new vendors for the papers expansion.
Credit KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

At a day shelter for homeless men in downtown Bellevue, Buddy McArdle was working hard trying to convince the men there to become vendors for Real Change.

“Come on, man,” McArdle said. “You get your badge today, you get your papers today. Tomorrow you don’t even have to play."

McArdle has the look of a quick-talking New York City busker, with an accent to match, but the reception was lukewarm. One man said he would think about it. Another said he might try next week.

"Next week, huh?" McArdle said skeptically. But he pushed forward, because he had to win over some potential vendors because Real Change, a progressive Seattle weekly newspaper, is expanding to Bellevue. 

The paper’s managing director said it is expanding because east King County has had substantial population growth, but little affordable housing. Real Change vendors also began selling the paper in Bremerton this month.

The sticking point: Stigma. Homelessness is more stigmatized on the Eastside than in Seattle.

McArdle has been a vendor for Real Change, a progressive Seattle weekly newspaper, for a decade. He’s sold the paper around Seattle and a few of its suburbs. Like other vendors, McArdle purchases copies of the paper for 60 cents and sells them for $2. Vendors keep the profit.

But McArdles's pitch impressed Joshua Omernick.

Omernick was one of several newly-badged vendors who decided to give it a try.

"It’s a good opportunity for me to get out and work on my own at my own pace and represent my community as a homeless person on the Eastside especially,” he said.

Selling Real Change in Bellevue could be challenging. The paper and its low income and homeless vendors have been a familiar part of the Seattle landscape for nearly 20 years, but it is less well known on the Eastside.

“You’re not going to get a yes every time," McArdle told Omernick. "You’re probably going to get quite a few no’s. But after a while, you’ll find a customer base. And before you know it, you won’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat at the end of the day.”