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Pressing on

The Contributor is more than just a newspaper, remaining true to its roots while connecting vendors to new services

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The Contributor's office

Wherever Cathy Jennings is — speaking at nonprofit events, advising Metro Nashville government or connecting people to housing opportunities — she’s talking about the paper. Jennings is executive director of The Contributor, a twice-monthly newspaper sold by currently and formerly unhoused people in Nashville and surrounding areas. The newspaper works as low-barrier employment for its vendors, who buy papers for $0.25 each and sell them for $2. Through The Contributor’s other programs, people experiencing homelessness can connect to more permanent housing, employment opportunities and more. 

People often assume that paying vendors without taking the paper is more helpful, but Jennings says that’s not true. By taking the paper, “you’re instilling dignity and pride in that person selling it,” says Jennings. More practically, The Contributor uses vendor sales numbers to provide proof of income for services like Section 8 housing. “We’ve had these days where we’ll go out and sell with our vendors. I last maybe two hours and they are out there in all kinds of weather. That’s one of the misconceptions: that it’s not a real job. It is a real job. They put their own skin in the game,” she says. 


Cathy Jennings