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.