I never thought my work with Street Spirit would bring me to Hannover, Germany. But this summer, it did.
In June I attended the annual summit held by the International Network of Street Newspapers (INSP). Founded in 1994, INSP is an NGO based in Glasgow, Scotland that provides resources and support for street newspapers all over the world, with the goal of alleviating homelessness globally. As of this year, they have more than 100-member papers published in 25 languages in 35 different countries. Street Spirit became a member in 2018. The conference took place during a sunny week in Hannover. We shared with each other our methods for overcoming editorial roadblocks and boosting staff well-being. We also discussed how to prepare for the future by implementing cashless payment, and using advanced technology to increase reader engagement.
Street Spirit often feels like a hyper-local project. All of our vendors work in the Bay Area, and our stories focus largely on local politics and the ways that poverty impacts people here in our backyard. But when I was in Hannover, I learned that Street Spirit’s readers, writers, and vendors are just one small part of a thriving global movement: There are around 20,500 vendors who sell INSP-member papers globally each year and 4.6 million people read the papers worldwide. Altogether, these papers put over $30 million in the pockets of vendors each year.
All of these papers share the common goal of empowering unhoused people. But each has a unique approach to their mission. Some are alt-weekly style magazines that publish a wide range of news stories. Others focus on arts and culture, with the goal of appealing to a wide audience and selling as many papers as possible. Like Street Spirit, many are sold for around $2. But others charge much more, such as The Big Issue Australia, which goes for $9 a pop. Certain papers provide a wide range of social services for their vendors, such as =Oslo in Norway, which opened up =Kaffe in 2019—a café that employs former street paper vendors, as well as anyone who has been forced to sleep on the street. Many find creative ways to support unhoused people, such as Shediart—a project of the Greek street newspaper, Shedia—which makes art out of unsold copies of Shedia and sells it in a shop.
The stories in this issue come from street newspapers around the world. Within them, you can learn about the challenges facing unhoused people in other countries and the triumphs of street vendors across the globe. I hope you take away a sense that we are part of a global movement to change hearts and lives around the world.
Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.