Homeless community benefits from local and statewide newspapers

John Clyne Holding Our Independence
Photographer’s /THE REVIEW
John Clyne holds the latest issue of newspaper Our Independence


For homeless communities in major cities, the street newspaper business represents a second chance at making a living. Delaware has its own “street paper” known as Our Independence, which is published in Wilmington and provides aid to homeless community members.

Street papers are independent newspapers and magazines that operate as a social enterprise to serve the homeless community by providing interactive services and projects allowing people to engage. Emily Taylor, director of the Philadelphia street newspaper publication, One Step Away, said they do this by reaching out to shelters and/or individuals in the homeless
community through presentations and generally word-of-mouth.

According to its website, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) supports and publishes 126 street papers in 41 countries across the globe and has modeled and implemented a self-help system. In this system, people from homeless communities can sign a contract to become street vendors where they buy the newspaper at a fraction of the original cost, usually 25 cents, and then go out and sell their purchased copies on the street for a dollar said Vincent Flannigan, executive director of a Massachusetts street paper Publication called Spare Change Newspaper.

John P. Clyne Jr., editor of Our Independence, said the publication was started January 2011 when vendors sold copies of One Step Away, a monthly publication produced by Resources for Human Development, a national non-profit headquartered in Philadelphia.

In September of 2011, they began distributing a joint edition of One Step Away supplemented with eight full pages of Delaware-focused news and information, Clyne said.

“Financially, selling the paper allows homeless vendors to generate income in the form of spending money,” he said. “This empowers them to achieve self-sufficiency and allows them to be able to reach into their pocket and pay for whatever they need. For someone with no other money coming in, this can be a true lifesaver.”

Publications such as Our Independence and the Philadelphia paper One Step Away share a common goal to help address issues within our nation such as unemployment and homelessness.

According to Emily Taylor and John Clyne, the goal is to provide an opportunity for anyone living on the street to keep up with the latest news about what is going on in the world at an affordable cost. The support and benefit given to homeless individuals through these street paper publications around the country and overseas have changed the mindset of over 250,000 people.

Street paper publications have collectively expressed that their goals are to create chances of developing a better life for the struggling members of homeless communities, through various services and projects that the INSP provide.

Some street papers such as Our Independence have some eligible homeless individuals write articles for them, under certain projects and special assignments that are provided. Taylor said their advertising methods are relatively informal.

“We [advertise] completely by word-of-mouth most of the time,” she said. “We did initially do a couple of presentations in some shelters, which ended up being a little unsuccessful, so we moved primarily to word-of-mouth.”

Flannigan said his newspaper allows virtually anyone from the homeless community to come into their distribution office, sign a contract spelling out their standards and their general expectations and then ultimately become a vendor.

“We have vendors who actually write articles for the newspaper, and are paid fifty dollars if it gets published, so we have people always interested in that,” Flannigan said.

According to Flannigan, the focus on the self-help model approach is an the attempt to make a difference amongst the lives of homeless community members can be seen in other cities such as across the country, such as Nashville and Portland.

Like Our Independence and One Step Away, providing these services seems to have put Boston’s street paper in the apparent national supportive group concerned with effectively aiding the homeless community, he said.

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