About Street Spirit
Street Spirit is a monthly newspaper that is sold by homeless people in Berkeley and Oakland. It is written by and for unhoused people as well as their advocates. We report rigorously on the politics and policies that impact our community, and publish personal essays, profiles, and poetry. Our mission is to provide economic opportunity for our homeless neighbors while also creating a platform where they can share their own stories. Learn more about our vendor program here.
We are published by Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA). YSA is an art jobs training program located in Berkeley, California which is committed to empowering homeless and low-income young people (ages 16-25) in the Bay Area. YSA’s mission is to use art jobs and jobs training to transform the lives of youth, giving young people the skills, experience, and self-confidence needed to meet their full potential. Art saves lives!
Street Spirit published its first issue in March of 1995. It was founded by Sally Hindman and Terry Messman. At the time, the Oakland Tribune was paying homeless people to sell their newspapers around the East Bay. But many of the stories in the Tribune were degrading to the homeless community. This gave Hindman an idea—what if unhoused people in the East Bay could sell newspapers that contained their own stories?
Hindman asked Terry Messman if he wanted to take the lead as founding Editor of the newspaper. Messman was a natural fit for the position—he studied journalism at the University of Montana, and was a long time Bay Area activist who fought tirelessly for the rights or poor and homeless people. Together, they set the paper into motion. The American Friends Service Committee published Street Spirit until January of 2017, at which point Youth Spirit Artworks took over as publisher.
In August of 2018, Messman retired after serving as Editor for 23 consecutive years. Alastair Boone was hired in his stead.
After 25 years of reporting, many of the topics at stake are the same. Cities are still cracking down on homeless encampments. Encampments are still rising up to resist. People are still dying on the street. But as these tensions rise and fall, each issue of Street Spirit has shared the same mission: to amplify the voices of poor and homeless people for all of us to hear.