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KIVA Recipient Helps Homeless



In September, a new newspaper hits the streets: THRIVE Detroit, the Motorcity's first street newspaper, a publication designed to deliver news about the homeless and hopefully deliver members of Detroit's homeless community to meaningful employment as distributors and even writers.

Delphia Simmons is bringing the model to Detroit, with an initial monthly circulation of 7,000 copies and a motto promising to "Drive sufficiency through micro-enterprise.'' Simmons says: "Helping people have a sense of dignity is bigger than making money.''

Simmons' dream is the result of support from KIVA, a nonprofit website which has built an international model of connecting small business owners to micro-lenders all over the world. In June, KIVA launched Kiva Detroit, its first city focused initiative with an aim of bringing more than $500,000 to small businesses in the city. KIVa allows individuals to lend as little as $25.

ThriveDetroit is new to Motown. But there are models thriving across the globe, according to the North American Street Newspaper Association, which supports 110 newspapers in 40 countries.

For Simmons, KIVA's support_ a $1,000 loan which is being matched by John S. and James L. Knight Foundation _helped her hold on to a dream of becoming a social entrepreneur. Simmons, a grandmother of five with a passion for service, is a graduate of Bizdom U, an 4-month entrepreneurial bootcamp created by Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman, Dan Gilbert. At Bizdom U, she nearly launched two other startup companies but ultimately decided to return to the traditional world of work, in her case as a project manager at Coalition Temporary Shelter in Detroit. Simmons' job at COTS ironically re-ignited her entrepreneurial drive and provided an inkling of how she could get the venture started, thanks to a friend who encouraged her to apply for a loan from KIVA. "Entrepreneurship can be really overwhelming without support and a way to get started, especially when you think of everything that's needed beyond the idea,'' she said.

But KIVA's support has unlocked a steady pipeline of offers, spontaneous networks and collaborations. "This isn't something that anyone can do alone. I didn't realize how much help I really needed until people started offering. The Detroit Chapter of National Association of Black Journalists is helping. The calls just keep coming, including a woman who just moved to Detroit from Chicago, where she worked on a street newspaper there as a copy editor. All the right things are lining up this time. I think people see the opportunity in doing something that has the potential do a lot of good for those with the greatest need in Detroit.