Together, Real Change and Swedish remove barriers to employment — and stability

Providence Swedish sponsors the Emerald City Resource Guide, a critical information resource for low-income and unhoused people in greater Seattle who may not have internet access. 

When looking for a job but having limited resources, there can be many barriers to moving forward. Education, logistics, housing, past experience, and mental and physical health, among others, are reasons that someone may struggle to find stable employment.  

Real Change is a nonprofit organization working to eliminate these barriers for people. The mission of Real Change is to provide opportunity and a voice to low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic, social and racial justice.  

One way Real Change provides assistance is through the Providence Swedish-sponsored Emerald City Resource Guide, a pocket-sized publication of over 200 partners, including service providers, emergency first responders, metro bus drivers, peer Real Change News vendors, and more. This allows those who may not have reliable access to the internet to have these items at their fingertips.

Another way that Real Change empowers community members is by providing a low-barrier, immediate work opportunity for anyone who needs it by selling the weekly newspaper, Real Change News, as an employee in their Vendor Program. 

The Vendor Program allows anyone to obtain immediate work without judgement, and with support to achieve personal and professional goals. Participants, which are called Real Change Vendors, are self-employed and earn an income by selling the weekly Real Change newspaper. Vendors spend $0.60 on the paper, and sell them for $2.00 each, keeping the profit. As a kick-start investment, Real Change gives vendors their first 10 papers for free, so vendors can keep the full $2.00 profit from each of the first 10 sales.  

“Real Change changed my life; it gave me a way to pull myself out of this storm that was my life. It gave me the opportunity to earn a living wage without feeling like I’m begging for it,” - Dawn Comiskey.  

Vendors are also allowed to accept tips, and many customers choose to pay over the $2.00 price, knowing that the vendors benefit directly. Real Change has set up Venmo accounts for their vendors, so even those who don’t carry cash can support newspaper sales.   

Dawn Comiskey has found stability and empowerment through the Vendor Program at Real Change. After living the “typical American life”, as she calls it –earning her bachelor's degree in health sciences, working full time in a doctor’s office, being married, owning a home – life took an unexpected turn and she found herself needing support. Since being introduced to Real Change in 2017, Dawn has been selling Real Change News in the Lake City and Wedgewood neighborhoods.   

“Real Change changed my life; it gave me a way to pull myself out of this storm that was my life. It gave me the opportunity to earn a living wage without feeling like I’m begging for it,” Dawn says.  

In an effort to keep the barrier-to-entry low, no ID is required to become a vendor, and they can begin earning an income after just a brief orientation. Real Change reports that 600 people each year find meaningful work as vendors, with over one million dollars going directly to vendors through newspaper sales.    

Vendors like Dawn have said that this program works well because they get to make their own hours, they build relationships with people who become regular customers, and they’re proud of the product they sell. Dawn has cultivated a strong community, and thanks to her hard work, she has been in permanent, supportive housing for over four years.  

Providence Swedish is proud to partner with local organizations like Real Change as they make our community a more equitable place to live.  

About Providence Swedish

Providence Swedish has served the Puget Sound region since the first Providence hospital opened in Seattle in 1877 and the first Swedish hospital opened in 1910. The two organizations affiliated in 2012 and today comprise the largest health care delivery system in Western Washington, with 22,000 caregivers, eight hospitals and 244 clinics. A not-for-profit family of organizations, Providence Swedish provides more than $406 million in community benefit in the Puget Sound Region each year. The health system offers a comprehensive range of services and specialty and subspecialty care in a number of clinical areas, including cancer, cardiovascular health, neurosciences, orthopedics, digestive health and women’s and children’s care.