This newspaper is an invitation. First it is an invitation to talk to each other. For the vendor, to build relationships with potential customers. For the reader, to learn a little bit about the person selling the paper. This requires a flesh and blood interaction: getting up, wandering down the street, making eye contact. It is an opportunity to meet someone different from you, no matter which side of the paper you’re on. Then it is an invitation to read. To hold a real thing in your hands and open it up. Maybe you struggle a little—the wind blows and it rips; you get ink on your hands. Nevermind, the stories will be the same. Scan through the pages and choose the one that looks best. Maybe also read the one nextdoor (your eyes are over there anyway and, let’s be honest, the pages are big and difficult to turn).
Any story you choose will bring you into somebody’s life. It doesn’t matter if it’s poetry, an essay, or news. People are at the core of everthing you will find here: People like the vendor who sold you the paper, like the ones we interview, like those who write and edit each story. People like you.
Street Spirit is a community exercise from the ground up. Here are 10 ways you can support our work this holiday season. Starting at number 10:
10. Tell businesses that you love Street Spirit. Ask a manager or tell the clerk how much you love having a vendor in front of the businesses that you frequent. It makes a big difference for vendors to feel a sense of belonging in our community.
9. Become a Street Spirit ambassador and help spread the word. Blast your support on social media. Next time you buy a paper, ask if you can take a photo with the vendor to post online. (A cute photo of your face next to the paper would be just as good.) Be creative and let your social network know what Street Spirit is and why people should support our project.
8. Organize your community to buy the paper. Hassle your friends to carry cash. Buy an additional copy and introduce us to at least one friend or co-worker this month. Turning your peer network on to Street Spirit is one of the best ways you can support us.
7. READ THE PAPER! We work really hard on it. Each piece helps illuminate the experience of homelessness from the perspective of those most impacted. (Newsprint also makes good bedding for your lizard, but please read at least a few stories first.)
6. Share your favorite stories on social media. We work with a ton of very talented writers who put hours of work into their stories. Our essays and poetry are poignant and insightful.Our investigative pieces hit hard and deserve a wide audience. If you read something you hate, write to us about it! We’re launching a Letters to the Editor column and we want to publish your opinions (details below).5. Write the mayor and your city council person. Tell them homeless people are not to blame for homelessness, and that everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Tell them that you support progressive housing policies. Keep your eyes on our pages for opportunities to speak up about specific issues.
4. Come visit Youth Spirit Artworks’ Shanice Kiel Gallery space at 3324 Adeline Street in Berkeley. Check out one of their upcoming exhibits, or buy a piece of artwork made by the talented youth participants of YSA’s art and jobs training program. Your purchase will support the youth artist and YSA—which, in turn, will help Street Spirit thrive.
3. Give a one-time donation to Street Spirit. $1,450 covers the cost of printing the paper for one month. $500 supports our vendor coordinator and vendor program. $250 suports one month of contributor stipends for writers and illustrators. $100 contributes to the cost of gear for vendors, such as hats and vests to keep warm. $50 contributes to the cost of bus passes for Street Spirit vendors as well as YSA youth. Give online at www.youthspiritartworks.org/donate.
2. Sign up to give a recurring donation. We don’t run ads—we never have. We are supported by members of our community with a dollar to spare. Sign up to give a recurring donation online at www.youthspiritartworks.org/donate.
1. Stop and talk to your neighborhood vendor. Introduce yourself, and let the vendor know what you like and don’t like about the newspaper. Stay engaged and help us build community. Street Spirit provides a safe place for individuals to engage with people on the streets in a positive way.
We deeply appreciate your readership and support of our vendors. We hope to see you out there in the world one day very soon.
Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.