Alastair Boone and Street Spirit vendor Shawn Moses celebrate their fundraising success at Berkeley’s Art House Gallery in August, 2023. (Ian Castro)

When Street Spirit abruptly went out of print in July 2023, we weren’t sure what would happen. Our former non-profit publisher could no longer afford to operate the newspaper. This left us with two choices: let Street Spirit die, or fight to stay in print. We chose the latter, and have been working like hell to make it happen for the last eight months. Today, on our 29th birthday, we are thrilled to be back in your hands. A print newspaper filled with the voices and stories of homeless and marginally housed people in the East Bay—one that documents underground history and keeps up with local news. “Street Spirit!” an unhoused friend exclaims each time I walk by her encampment on San Pablo Avenue. “That’s the people’s newspaper!” 

This is no small feat in a world where the number of working journalists is dropping faster than the number of coal miners, according to A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times. The success of our fundraising campaign reflects this community’s desire to maintain an alternative publication like ours. We have raised over $200,000 to cover the first year of operations. This money came from more than 300 individual donors, most giving between $5 and $250. Sixteen people gave $1,000 or more. Hundreds came to the fundraising events we held over the summer, and many signed up to volunteer. We got to meet our readers and make new friends. We were reminded again and again that this paper has life left to live.

Street Spirit simply would not be back in print without the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), who agreed to be our fiscal sponsor more or less overnight. While having a non-profit fiscal sponsor is essential to raising money for a project like ours, WRAP has also provided expert guidance—and beers, when we needed them. Likewise, we are deeply grateful to the Coalition on Homelessness (COH). COH has been sending us copies of their San Francisco street newspaper Street Sheet so that our vendors would not go without a paper to sell these last eight months. This was essential for their survival.

Perhaps it is no surprise that it was many of these same people who helped get Street Spirit off the ground back in 1995. Paul Boden, now the Director of WRAP, was Director of COH in the 90s. The Coalition began publishing Street Sheet and people loved it. So when Terry Messman—founding editor of Street Spirit—asked Paul if he should start up a street newspaper in the East Bay, Paul said, “You won’t be sorry.” 

“And he was right,” Terry said later in an interview. “Even when Street Spirit began gradually taking over my life, I wasn’t sorry.”

We’re not sorry either for relaunching it now in 2024. It has completely taken over our lives, and we’re not sorry. It is an honor to witness such profound community support for a project and to help something bloom. 

With all of this community support, we are entering our first year as an independent publication. Rather than relying on a non-profit parent, we are responsible for finding our own donors and raising our own funds. Street Spirit has never operated in this way before, and in some ways, re-launching as an independent project is a leap of faith. But we believe that our supporters will continue to lift us up. Our donors, our writers, our vendors, our readers. That’s the people’s newspaper.

Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.