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The StreetWise Comeback

By Sean Stillmaker in News on Apr 3, 2011 4:30PM

Photo By Seth Anderson

While the state slashes the budgets of social service providers, and news organizations continue to downsize, StreetWise has found a way to persevere and succeed on both avenues after it was facing closure two years ago.

StreetWise is a weekly magazine focusing on local issues that started in 1992. But the nonprofit also serves disadvantaged individuals through its entrepreneurial program, job training and other support services.

The people you see on the street selling the magazine for $2 work for StreetWise. They buy the magazine for 90 cents and sell them pocketing a $1.10 profit. They’re not looking for a handout, they’re just working their job. Each vendor has their own story and none is more compelling than Lance Bartel’s, which the Chicago Journal reports .

In 2009 StreetWise was facing closure with $200,000 in debt, but within days of the Apr. 14, 2009 announcement private donations came pouring in at roughly $40,000 that was able to keep the organization open for that year.

Bruce Crane was promoted to turn the company around and he hit the ground running. Operation costs were brought down, while ad sales and magazine sales increased. The organization went from $200,000 in debt to posting a net income of $1,168 last year. Starting this week the magazine will be given a new look too.

Crane exceeded expectations and has now fallen back to his volunteer role as a board member. Jim LoBianco, the former commissioner of the office of homeless services in Chicago is the new executive director.

He’s provided a two year plan and continues promoting this year’s slogan, “StreetWise exists so panhandling doesn’t have to.”