The Vision

StreetWise will provide Chicagoans in need with, “a hand up, not a handout.” To this end, StreetWise will assure that, by giving any person who is willing to work a stable foundation from which they can move themselves out of crisis, no one will find it necessary to beg in order to survive.

In 1991, a group of concerned Chicago business people joined the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to address the growing problem of street homelessness. They wanted to identify a viable pathway for the homeless to move themselves on to personal stability and financial self-sufficiency. The founders recognized that an essential component to a person’s stability was an earned income. They explored a number of workforce options in pursuit of a business model that could provide needy and at-risk individuals with accessible and profitable employment. They knew that employment could not be the only resource available. The founders realized that to achieve true stability those they served would need social service support as well. In 1992, after much research, StreetWise was born, and with it the StreetWise magazine vendor program. 

Today, StreetWise is a workforce development agency designed to help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness out of the crisis of poverty. The StreetWise model combines supportive social services, (focused on employment training; housing placement; and financial literacy) with the opportunity for gainful self-employment, in order to assist clients on the road to stability and self-sufficiency. For close to 20 years, StreetWise has allowed individuals in crisis immediate access to a legitimate earned income. From its inception, StreetWise has been a refuge and resource for men and women seeking a dignified means of addressing the crisis of poverty.

StreetWise Magazine: As a publication, StreetWise magazine is socially conscious and Chicago-centric. It raises awareness on the impact of poverty and homelessness in Chicago, across the nation, and around the world. StreetWise is among the largest “street papers” in the United States and serves as a model for street papers across North America. The editorial staff work hard to provide intriguing articles about today’s important issues as well as entertaining articles to enhance the reader’s daily life. By engaging the unemployed and underemployed as vendors, StreetWise is able to personalize the face of Chicago’s poor while, at the same time, providing them with a viable income opportunity.


  1. Employment: Provide immediate access to a legitimate earned income for any person willing to work; and provide the training and support necessary to help our clients secure stable long-term employment.
  2. Housing: Assure that each client is safely and stably housed; and work to move those clients living on the street or in a homeless shelter into non-shelter based housing as quickly as possible.
  3. Financial Literacy: Provide each client with the education and support needed to successfully manage their income and expenses so they can achieve personal/financial stability.

Chicago Area Poverty

According to the “2010 Report on Illinois Poverty,” released by the Social IMPACT Research Center of Heartland Alliance, 11.8% of Chicago area residents (983,744 persons) are living in poverty while another 15.2% (1,267,381 persons) are at risk of falling into poverty. Citing the stagnant employment rate, the report states that 52% of these individuals living in extreme poverty are not expected to readily find employment. Center Director, Amy Rynell, highlights the fact that even those with part-time employment, “are not able to make ends meet, and they’re making untenable choices each day between food or paying rent, food or medicine.”

Streetwise hopes to continue passionately pushing its mission and to decreasing the numbers of individuals living on the streets or in poverty.