By Marijn Thijs
One of the last remaining street newspapers in the Netherlands – a source of income for the homeless, the poor and refugees – is struggling to survive.
Selling street newspapers has been an effective job for the homeless to remain on the right track. In the north of the Netherlands, De Riepe is one of the only monthly street newspapers still in business.
However, business is not as good as it used to be. According to the regional newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden, the circulation decreased from 25,000 to 16,000 in 2012. Eddy Posthumus, an administrative officer in the distribution center of De Riepe, says that nowadays the circulation has dropped to 10,000 although the paper is operating steadier than ever before as all print papers usually sell.
Indeed, he admits that action has to be undertaken to guarantee the current existence of the newspaper. De Riepe has to keep track of their sales more strictly and is now part of Werkpro, an unemployment agency for those excluded from society.
Posthumus recognizes the potential setbacks, such as the tendency for vendors to beg next to selling the paper, but believes that the future is looking bright. “Some sellers have invested in their image by looking neat and being polite, which affects their sales numbers. They have become generally well-respected.”
“A lot happens on the streets,” says Atze van de Weij, veteran seller of De Riepe in Groningen.
Van de Weij says he has managed to build up a good image over the years. He sells about 10 papers per day, a relatively large amount compared to other sellers. He believes the street newspaper industry will survive as long as sellers remain polite, dress appropriately and avoid being pushy.
Atze even notices appreciation for his work sometimes: “Selling papers is better than stealing, and people know that is what you would be doing otherwise.”