If you live in, or have ever been to, a city like Chicago, or Washington, DC, San Francisco, Nashville or Seattle, you have probably seen a vendor selling a paper that reports on issues of poverty and homelessness. This is a “Street Newspaper,” and there are over 40 of these in print in North America, and over 100 published in 34 countries around the world.
We’ve shared before about the activism of the 1980’s and 90’s, when our current era of homelessness was just starting to rear its ugly head. People who were becoming homeless were intimately involved in advocacy and services to help folks who were unhoused. By the late 1980’s, homeless advocates realized there was a need for educating the larger public about the issues surrounding homelessness. Street News, first published in NYC in 1989, is credited with being the first street newspaper focused on homeless issues, followed closely by Street Sheet, still published by the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.
Inspired by Street News, the Big Issue was launched as a “social business” in 1991 in the UK, inspiring a further wave of street newspapers across Europe. The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) was created in 1994 and our own beloved Michael Stoops helped to start the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) in 1996. The two networks worked collaboratively until 2013, when INSP became the single global network for street papers on all six continents.
Street papers in the US have, for the most part, intended to act as both an advocacy tool and a primary way for people who have been homeless to be active leaders in that advocacy. Today, most papers are run, written, and sold by homeless folks. Many papers offer case management assistance, training and networking opportunities to homeless folks in their communities.
The National Coalition for the Homeless has long supported the advocacy and empowerment outlet that street newspapers have provided. Street papers across the world continue to break down barriers between housed and unhoused people, creating employment opportunities to poor people worldwide.
- Street Newspapers Help the Homeless, article published on Dec. 1, 2008
- Chicago’s Street Wise at the Crossroads: A Case Study of a Newspaper to Empower the Homeless in the 1990’s, by Norma Fay Green, published in Print Culture in a Diverse America, ed. James Philip Danky, Wayne A. Wiegand, University of Illinois Press, 1998
- Archived North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) website
- International Network of Street Papers (INSP) website
- Twitter list of North American street newspapers
- Manual on how to start a Street Newspaper
- Homeless World Cup, which grew out of the Big Issue in Scotland