News

Rough sleeper sets up The Springs Echo, the world’s newest street paper

“The city council walked all over us homeless people – I got tired of it,” says founder of The Springs Echo

The world’s newest street paper, set up by a rough-sleeping woman who has been homeless for two years, has gone on sale in Colorado Springs.

The Springs Echo was founded as a response to draconian new byelaws introduced by the city council and local police, designed to punish homeless people and shunt them out of the city centre, with no support or advice on where to find help. They include a ‘no-sit, no-lie ordinance’, which prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk or in other public spaces.

Founder Raven Canon explained: “I’m forced to step up into this role that I’ve created. It’s bizarre, because until I did this we [the homeless community] had no voice here, none. The city council, Colorado Springs Police Department, the mayor – they walked all over us. I just got tired of it. I started stomping my feet.”

The idea for a street paper to unite homeless people and give them a voice in the face of this aggressive new public policy came while she was starving and trying to stay out of the line of fire, without realising that there was support in the shape of a soup kitchen around the corner from where she was sitting. “I’m female, so I was just trying to keep a low profile. People target you – especially if you’re female and homeless,” she said.

Having previously sold Seattle street paper Real Change, which included useful information in its pages on sources of support for the city’s homeless community, she decided to set up her own street paper. With support from the UK-based International Network of Street Papers and American street papers Real Change, The Contributor in Nashville and Denver Voice, she spent the last year and a half getting The Springs Echo off the ground. She secured backing from local activist group Coalition for Compassion and Action – for whom Raven was their first homeless member – and from the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People].

The first edition of the paper was printed at the start of 2017, with 3,000 copies delivered to the soup kitchen beside which Raven generated the idea for it. So far 10 vendors have been recruited. They buy the paper for 50 cents and sell it for $1.50.

On its first day on sale, Raven heard that a high-ranking member of the mayor’s office had bought a copy of The Springs Echo. “So I’d say the chances are pretty high that the mayor’s read it.”

Without permanent shelter, Raven juggles fundraising and editing duties whilst staying at friends’ houses or sleeping in a local 24 hour café. But sticking her neck out has also brought difficulties from other homeless people.

She said: “I can’t go into a regular shelter setting, where I normally used to go, because I pretty much go around with a big bull’s eye on my back in the homeless community right now. I’m bringing unwanted attention on them. They don’t understand that things are getting better because I’m doing this. They’re so used to people abusing them and throwing them under the bus, that that is what they naturally expect.

“Until more members of the homeless community start to stand up with me, my voice has to be the loudest. Because right now, there’s no balance to the conversation,” she added.

Denver Voice, which loaned Raven money to pay the printer until she could get donations released, has been helping with advice on the technical aspects of producing a street paper. Editor Sarah Harvey said: “We’ve been able to help Raven troubleshoot some printing questions and have advised her a bit on her vendor programme. I know Raven has reached out to other street papers for help. Even with that mentoring, I must say I am impressed with how quickly she was able to realise her dream and get her first issue printed. I think that drive and determination is a good indicator that she’s street paper material.”

Find your local vendor

Find your Vendor

International Network of Street Papers operations manager Zoe Greenfield added: “Starting and running a street paper is no mean feat and to do so whilst facing the personal challenges of homelessness is awe-inspiring. As we approach the INSP’s #VendorWeek, it’s great to celebrate a former vendor launching a new street paper to offer opportunity to those around her.”

Activism is at the heart of Raven’s ambitions for the paper – but given her continuing struggle with housing, the financial imperative that drives street papers is never far from her mind. “For me, this is all about the vendors,” she says. “If the vendors aren’t out there making money, what’s the point? We need a voice, but at the end of the day this is about getting people off the streets.”

www.facebook.com/springsecho

Images: INSP.ngo

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on the first day of the general election campaign
General election 2024

Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'
Homelessness

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead
Conservation

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule
General Election 2024

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know