Street Spirit homeless newspaper is back in print

Bradley Penner, Avenue Spirit’s new editor-in-chief, covers a protest at Individuals’s Park in Berkeley on Saturday, Jan. 5. Credit score: Supriya Yelimeli

The Avenue Spirit newspaper, which has chronicled homeless points since 1995, is again on newsstands this week after eight months out of print as a result of funding issues.

“We’re again!” the paper wrote on social media Wednesday. “After eight months out of print, our March 2024 challenge hit the streets right this moment. Distributors have began to select up papers and shall be promoting all of them month outdoors your neighborhood grocery retailer, cafe, farmer’s market, and so on.”

Berkeleyside is resharing this story, a model of which was first printed on Jan. 8.

As dozens of cops rushed into Individuals’s Park, Alastair Boone stood by with a pocket book and a recorder, filming the unfolding motion on her telephone.

The police have been there to take away protesters and permit UC Berkeley to fence off the historic and much-contested plot of land, in preparation for a scholar housing challenge. Boone, the previous editor-in-chief of the Avenue Spirit newspaper, was there to cowl the breaking story. Becoming a member of her was present Avenue Spirit editor-in-chief Bradley Penner. Collectively, they offered practically uninterrupted protection of the 72-hour standoff.

“There’s nothing else to do however present up and watch — irrespective of the time of day, irrespective of how bitterly chilly it’s,” Boone stated. “It’s so deeply a part of Avenue Spirit’s custom to witness the historical past of the park unfold and it’s frankly an honor for me to hold that torch.”

For practically 30 years, Avenue Spirit has coated the information not solely at Individuals’s Park, but in addition numerous different websites of tensions and triumphs for the East Bay homeless group. Housed and unhoused residents alike depend on the publication for its unflinching, empathetic, on-the-ground reporting, together with its art work and useful resource guides. 

However since Might 2023, the newspaper has been conspicuously absent from the streets of Berkeley and Oakland. Final spring, the board of Youth Spirit Artworks, which funded Avenue Spirit, abruptly introduced it might now not help the paper and that it could stop publication. 

Avenue Spirit’s journalists have continued reporting and publishing on-line, and the handfuls of distributors who offered Avenue Spirit in entrance of companies and on sidewalks have as an alternative been hawking San Francisco’s Avenue Sheet, whereas uncertainty has clouded the way forward for the East Bay newspaper.

However after months of fundraising, Boone and Penner have been in a position to increase over $250,000—totally from particular person donors—which is sufficient to cowl a transition interval and operations till the top of 2024, in response to Boone.

“I feel that reveals how invested our group is in Avenue Spirit and in grassroots information, and in help for his or her homeless group members,” stated Boone, who was acutely aware of ready to start out printing once more till there have been sufficient funds within the coffers to keep away from one other pause in publication or fundraising scramble.

Boone, who’s edited the month-to-month paper for about 5 years, has been heartened to listen to about readers’ relationship with the journalism and the distributors—the music a selected vendor would sing within the mid-2000s, or the memorable catchphrase of one other. 

“Individuals really feel like Avenue Spirit is a crucial a part of the cultural cloth of the East Bay,” she stated. “It’s a touchstone that they acknowledge, and so they discover its absence.”

An older man resting against a walker holds up a Street Spirit newspaper in the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.
Longtime vendor Arrous Lambert holds up one of many final printed problems with Avenue Spirit within the spring of 2023. Credit score: Florence Middleton

The paper had been printed by Youth Spirit Artworks since 2017, and the Berkeley nonprofit offered most of its funding, together with Boone’s wage as editor-in-chief.

Boone remains to be open to discovering one other funder however is concentrated now on constructing Avenue Spirit as an unbiased group. She’s going to function director, whereas Penner, who got here on board shortly after printing stopped, shall be editor-in-chief. 

They’ve already been busy these previous six months: Avenue Spirit has printed a number of articles on its web site, stayed energetic on social media, and hosted fundraiser concert events and talks. They’ve additionally printed “The Eviction Machine” by Vinay Pai, a 78-page illustrated zine documenting the lifetime of William Caldeira, referred to as 300, a longtime Berkeley resident who handled housing insecurity and died in 2019.

Distributors, lots of whom are unhoused, have been thrilled to listen to the paper is returning to print, Boone stated.

“Plenty of the parents promoting Avenue Spirit have been with us for 10, typically 20, years, and so for them Avenue Spirit is like part of their identification,” she stated. “I feel for lots of them, it’s about representing the East Bay and the [homeless] group they’ve been part of for, in lots of instances, all their lives.” Merchandising can be an vital supply of revenue for most of the sellers. Distributors hold the cash they make promoting papers, that are $2 apiece.

However with the paper out of print — together with the latest deaths of some longtime distributors and the COVID-19 pandemic initially interrupting promoting—the seller program has dwindled.

The distributors should not the one individuals within the Avenue Spirit universe who’ve expertise with homelessness and housing insecurity. A lot of the writing and artwork featured within the publication is created by individuals with firsthand information of the topics they’re masking. Penner stated that when he first arrived in Berkeley as a transient youth 15 years in the past he discovered group at Individuals’s Park.

“As we proceed to witness this suggestions loop of improvement and displacement all through the East Bay,” he stated, “it’s very important that Avenue Spirit is out right here within the undercurrent to ask the deeper questions — why, for whom, and at what expense.”

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