Price hike coming to Real Change newspapers

SEATTLE -- A Seattle newspaper sold by homeless vendors will soon cost more, and nobody's quite sure how the price hike will affect the people who count on it for a living.

Real Change vendors work on street corners throughout the city, selling their newspapers for $1 a paper. But on Wednesday those papers will cost $2.

The paper offers homeless men and women an opportunity to sell papers for as many hours a day as they like. Three hundred vendors buy papers for 35 cents a pop, but that number will also be changing on Wednesday.

"My cost is going from 35 cents to 60 cents," said vendor Mike Hall. "Who knows what's going to happen."

Vendor earnings can vary wildly, from as little as $2 an hour to $30 an hour for those who have been doing it long enough and developed their own sales turf.

"I've been on this corner for 13 years," said vendor Robert Surles.

Real Change founding director Tim Harris started the paper in 1994 and said the jump in price will help vendors.

"Because we believe everybody deserves to make a livable wage, but here we've got vendors who weren't even making minimum wage selling the newspaper," he said. "It just isn't good enough."

By prepping vendors and alerting customers about the change, Harris hopes Real Change can avoid the fate of Chicago's Street Wise paper.

"They saw about a 45 percent crash in circulation and took a couple years to recover from that," he said.

Harris isn't the only one who hopes customers won't balk at an extra buck.

"I've gotten a lot of good feedback saying, 'It's about time you got a raise after 18 years,'" Surles said.

The price increase isn't the only change in the works, either. Harris hopes to expand the paper to Kitsap County this year and east King County next year. Within the next five years, he wants to expand the paper statewide.