Food & Drink

Best of 2019: ‘Real Change’ Turns 25

'Real Change' celebrates a quarter-century of making a meaningful difference

By Gemma Wilson December 18, 2019


This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the December 2019 issue as part of our Best of 2019 cover story. Click here to subscribe.

The literal meaning of Real Change was impossible to ignore at a gala breakfast celebrating 25 years of our city’s street paper this fall. “Real Change got me out of homelessness, and I can’t ask for more than that,” said Evie Lovett, one of Real Change’s 2019 vendors of the year after receiving the standing ovation that welcomed her to the stage of a Washington State Convention Center ballroom. “It gave me my life back, and I’m grateful.” (Yemane Berhe was chosen as the newspaper’s other vendor of the year.)

Since 1994, the weekly nonprofit paper has been telling the stories of an underserved population and focusing on issues of economic, racial and social justice. As vendor partners sell that paper around the city, they gain both an immediate stream of income (vendors buy papers for 60 cents and sell them for $2) and a community of colleagues and customers. Today, with more than a dozen first-place awards from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists under its belt, Real Change supports the livelihoods of approximately 800 homeless and low-income people, generating more than $1 million in revenue for its vendors annually.

Tim Harris, Real Change’s founder and director, has been organizing homeless communities for more than 30 years. “I don’t need to tell you that the last few years have been particularly rough,” Harris told gala attendees. “Homelessness has been deployed as an urban wedge issue, where the politics of fear and disgust have been weaponized both in our local politics and nationally.” In addition to the award-winning paper and its multifaceted vendor program, Real Change has a tireless advocacy arm. A current lobbying effort, known as Everybody Poos, seeks funding in the city’s 2020 budget for five portable toilets, modeled on San Francisco’s Mobile Pit Stop Program, in service of basic human rights and dignity.

Twenty-five years in, Real Change keeps evolving—did you know you can pay your vendor with Venmo? Earlier this year, the paper fiscally sponsored the formation of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), a consortium designed to increase the impact and sustainability of papers across North America. “This is the best organization in the city right now. I can be a little bit biased, but I believe it is,” Lovett says. “The unspoken [people] need someone to advocate for them, and that’s what Real Change does.”

Contact deputy editor Gemma Wilson at or follow her on Twitter at @gemmaswilson.

Follow Us

‘10 Things I Hate About You' Turns 25 

‘10 Things I Hate About You’ Turns 25 

Tour 10 locations from the iconic '90s movie filmed in Seattle and Tacoma

Released 25 years ago in 1999, 10 Things I Hate About You perfectly encapsulates the '90s and stands out as an excellent adaptation of Shakespeare. It’s Heath Ledger’s American debut and a travel postcard from Seattle and Tacoma to the world. So, get those cameras ready and crank up Letters to Cleo — let’s hit the

Uncommon Thinkers: Sam Cho

Uncommon Thinkers: Sam Cho

Director, Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Mayor. Commissioner, Port of Seattle

Not many can say they were elected to public office before the age of 30. Fewer can still say that, by the time they did so, they'd founded and sold a business. #UncommonThinkersWelcome Photo by Andrew Ge

Uncommon Thinkers: Marilyn Strickland

Uncommon Thinkers: Marilyn Strickland

Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives

When Americans tuned in to see the swearing-in ceremony for the U.S. Congress on Jan. 3, 2021, they witnessed something unprecedented: a newly elected representative wearing a hanbok, a traditional South Korean garment. #UncommonThinkersWelcome Photo by Eric Connolly

Seattle Podcast: Rebecca Lovell — Civic Thought Leader Builds Bridges

Seattle Podcast: Rebecca Lovell — Civic Thought Leader Builds Bridges

There are few people in the Pacific Northwest who have successfully navigated tech, economic development, venture capital, and nonprofits. Our esteemed podcast guest, Rebecca Lovell, is one such individual who has done this in no small part due to her native roots in the Seattle/Tacoma region, and her prolific and important contributions as a civic