Homeless Newspapers Head Uptown

From focus groups to celebrity coverage, street papers look to increase appeal

| Utne Reader May / June 2007

Outside a Trader Joe's grocery in northwest Portland, geared toward middle-class customers in search of gourmet grub, 59-year-old Roger Gates is working his regular six-hour shift on the sidewalk. He's chatting up customers about Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper founded in 1998 to advocate for the homeless.

In the four years he has sold it, the 'street paper' has grown from a small and scruffy monthly to a professionally edited bimonthly providing insight into everything from city hall politics to the crisis in Darfur. 'We're starting to cover global issues, things going on around the world,' Gates says. 'We're getting better and better all the time.'

It's not the sort of coverage most customers expect when they hand over their pocket change. Street papers typically have been just a few pages long, their all-volunteer staffs unconcerned with aesthetically pleasing layouts, and focused primarily on stories affecting or reflecting the needs of the indigent. Over the past few years, however, more and more papers like Street Roots have chosen to employ professional writers, publish more mainstream coverage, and put more money into design.

'For some street papers, this means a move away from a grassroots, participatory medium and the 'professionalization' of the sector,' says Kevin Howley, associate professor of media studies at DePauw University. It also means a shift to more 'middle-class content' -- local, national, international, and entertainment news that grabs readers' interest.

The Seattle-based publication Real Change, culling data from focus groups, found that being perceived as a 'homeless paper' fosters low expectations among potential readers. To combat that perception, Real Change revamped its layout and began emphasizing topics such as biofuels and immigration. Other papers have tried publishing more frequently, soliciting ads, and expanding their range of coverage.

'Papers are recognizing that you can't hit people over the head with the word homelessness,' explains Israel Bayer, vice chair of the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA), which provides technical assistance and networking opportunities to member papers.

Larry Spain
7/3/2013 4:11:04 PM

What a story, so sad to hear he passed away, I also have a program to help the homless. Please read. God Bless. End Homelessness, With Your Trash! Help end homelessness, with your trash, by supporting Scrap4Homes, a unique recycling program that refurbishes donated appliances, and provides free recycle pick up, and scrap metal removal services. Scrap4Homes then resales donated appliances, and recycles the scrap metal, and uses the money to provides financial support to(under funded) homeless shelters, outreach programs, and homeless prevention programs. There is an endless flow of scrap metal being given away, and thrown away, everyday. If you doubt this, checkout the “free” section of Craigslist.com, or check out what your neighbors are throwing away, in their trash pile, the next time you drive by. Household appliances like refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washer and dryers, can be refurbished and resold for a 90% to 100% profit! The best part is, is that all of this is made possible because of the scrap metal that most people consider trash and throw away everyday. Most households still do not recycle however, when provided with free pick-up and removal services most people would participate in recycling if it's for a good cause. This is free money, that can be used to help end the homeless epidemic that has swept across our country. Most unwanted appliances end up at the scrap yards, where they are destroyed, for their metals. So why not help the homeless with those unwanted items, and help restore our communities with these free resources? Scrap4homes Programs: *) Organizing local volunteers, for neighborhood clean-up projects. *) Provide multiple (appliance and recycling) drop-off locations in each city. *) Buying unwanted appliances, medical equipment, and machinery at auctions, then disassemble them, separating the valuable copper, and aluminum, from the steel. Buy doing this Scrap4homes can double and even triple our investment. *) Recruiting the support of youth groups (The Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts) to organize aluminum can drives. Our dream is to create a model (Scrap4Homes), for people from different cities to duplicate with programs of their own, resulting in the end of homelessness in America and maybe worldwide. Scrap4Homes Wish List: Pick-up trucks & utility vans A large truck with a lift-gate Warehouses and or land Volunteer's Seed capital Spreading the word about the Scrap4Homes program. Why Support Scrap4Homes? 1) Scrap4Homes helps fight homelessness 2) Scrap4Homes helps clean up the environment 3) Scrap4Homes creates jobs for shelter and homeless people My name is Larry Spain and I believe that God inspired me to create Scrap4Homes and I feel blessed and privileged to help put an end to homelessness. I would like to implement this program across our country and around the world, and end homelessness, one city at a time. If you like the idea of turning peoples trash into cash for the homeless, then please support the Scrap4Homes program, by sharing our links and spread the word about what we are trying to do. Contact Scrap4Homes scrap4homes@yahoo.com Help Support the Scrap4Homes recycling program http://www.gofundme.com/scrap4homes https://www.facebook.com/scrapfor.homes

7/24/2008 6:58:25 PM

It's nice to see Roger Gates mentioned here. I was at Trader Joe's today, expecting to see him as I do a couple of times a week, and instead I saw a little memorial. He just died. (see article at streetroots.wordpress.com) He was a sweet man and going in and out of TJ's won't be the same without him.

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