PORTLAND, Ore. — Five months after suspending the printing and selling of physical copies due to concerns about COVID-19, Street Roots vendors are once again out selling papers in Portland.
Close to 120 vendors, of the roughly 400 who were working when the pandemic began, have been certified via a health and safety training protocol. It was designed by Street Roots staff with the help of Multnomah County Health Department officials, said executive director Kaia Sand.
“What we know [about COVID-19] is always changing, but we sure do know a whole lot more now than we did five months ago,” Sand said. “There’s just such emotion around [the vendors] getting to connect with people.”
To help keep vendors and customers safe, Sand said, vendors are required to wear masks, stay at least 6 feet away from customers, use hand sanitizer and hand papers to customers with a trash picker. A customer can also pick up the paper themselves. Vendors will have hand sanitizer at their stations as well.
Also, for the first time ever, customers can pay for their paper without using cash. Street Roots is taking payments on the mobile payment app Venmo. They ask a customer send the money to their handle, @StreetRoots, and include the vendor’s name and badge number in the note.
Customers can also pay with cash, by dropping the money in a bucket.
Vendors are currently offering a special edition, in-color magazine, which focuses on how the pandemic has impacted people experiencing homelessness. It sells for $5.
Wednesday morning longtime vendor and military veteran Dan Newth set up shop at his post for the first time in month, the New Seasons store near Northeast 33rd Avenue and Killingsworth Street.
He brought seventy copies, fully expecting to sell out by lunch.
“I’ve been through a lot of counseling in my life not knowing what was wrong. It’s this community that allows me to stay sane,” Newth said. “It’s a two-way street. [Customers] miss us. We miss them.”
Sand said Street Roots staff are working to certify the rest of the vendors who were working before COVID shut operations down. They hope to have their next edition, a traditional newspaper, printed by September.