Regarding the review of Blue Jasmine ("Short Takes," Aug. 22): Scott Wilson's not-to-do-list to himself was probably scribbled on a Post-it note as he drove home one night drunk, lonely and ignored in Manhattan. (That reminds me: I need to get a box of cat litter this week.) As a critic, Scott is one or two bottles short of a six-pack; his yardstick is only a foot long. Unfortunately for spectators on the ground, Scott Wilson is a stuntman flying a stunt plane, sputtering and spitting gas and oil in a rapidly decaying orbit. I'm sure by this time next week I won't even remember him, and neither will anyone else.
A worthy contribution
I was interested to read Mr. Cavendish's article about the plight of the street paper The Contributor ("Final Issue?" Aug. 29). I am sorry to hear of their difficulties.
I was honored to meet Tasha French Lemley, the paper's founder, at the annual Service of Hope for the mentally ill. One of her vendors spoke. The vendor related her problems with mental illness and homelessness, but said she now had a residence and a job as a school crossing guard.
I frequently buy the paper and have always experienced courtesy and friendliness from the vendors. We converse if there are no cars behind. I know others feel differently about the vendors and call the paper The Enabler. I know this is not true, because the organization teaches job skills and how to find housing, as well as other issues. Even one of my own children says I am just enabling an addict. Do some of the vendors spend the money on alcohol or other drugs? Of course! Recovery is a long, up-and-down process. I say to my child that if one person out of 10 is helped, that is enough for me. Only about one in 10 alcoholics recover, according to statistics.
This little job provides the homeless a hook back into society. I had a family member who drank and drugged in his younger days. He was homeless and even slept in a Dumpster. In recovery, he became a very useful member of the work force, married, had a child, etc.
I have worked at a state mental hospital for 37 years. I have seen much misery among the homeless, some of whom also suffer mental illness. Some do not want to come into shelters because they are paranoid and frightened of crowds. They die on the streets all the time. I would much rather give my money to vendors with ID badges around their necks than to someone standing on a corner with a paper sign.
Some past clients have reported they could make $ 200 on their corner. I also would rather give directly to a person or an entity I know, than to a large charity organization with high administrative costs, where very little money gets to those who need it.
I am a Christian. Many Christians want to give to the poor in the clean sanitized way of dropping money into the collection plate. They don't have to see the real person in need. I will paraphrase Jesus' words: "Whatever you do unto the least of my brethren, you do also unto me." A face-to-face encounter with a vendor makes that person real to me, and I am real to him or her. I encourage everyone to help this worthy organization. I am glad Ms. Lemley now has a good board, including people familiar with charity tax issues. I wish her and the paper well. I would surely miss the faces of the vendors.
Vicki R. Pruitt
A Contributor Business plan
I just finished reading "Final Issue?" (Aug. 29). Let me say upfront that I am not against The Contributor, but I do disagree with this premise from the story: "These people aren't begging. They're selling a product."
I believe most buyers of the paper do not view the transaction as completely business in nature. There is a huge sympathy factor at work here. If The Contributor was sold in racks at convenience or grocery stores, I doubt the volume would be anywhere near 120,000 per month, as stated in the article.
In any event, my suggestion to balance the books is simple. Raise the price of the product from 25 cents to 30 cents. Based upon the 120,000 papers sold, the 5-cent increase would generate $6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year. Quite frankly, I would raise the price at least 10 cents to allow a cushion. Or, tie the price to the number of papers sold the previous month.
Your article strained to convince the reader that the venture is a business. If so, The Contributor should act like a business and let its vendors know that a price increase is coming — albeit a small one.
Also, why saddle 10 board members with the added responsibility of soliciting people for money? Let them use their creative abilities and energy in other ways to make the venture more stable in the long run.