Sarah Harvey, Editor
As I write this, I’ve just returned from the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) conference in Glasgow, Scotland (which I was able to attend due to a very generous INSP scholarship). There are over 100 different publications around the world like the Denver VOICE. The INSP conference is a chance for us to get together, compare notes, and inspire each other.
Street papers are growing, even as many paper periodicals have disappeared over the past several years. I think that has a lot to do with the mutually beneficial interaction between the vendors and the customers—an interaction that is made possible by a tangible product. I’ve heard from multiple vendors that selling the paper means more to them than just money. Selling the VOICE means a reason to start a conversation, recognition from society, a chance to be part of a community again. The primary reason most of our readers buy the paper is to support the vendor, which makes me think our customers need that interaction as much as the vendors do.
In fact, on page five we’ve printed some of the notes we get from readers about their relationships with our vendors. If a VOICE vendor regularly puts a smile on your face, let us know! We love being able to pass these kudos along.
We wanted to give our readers a little more information about this grassroots network of street papers that we’re part of. You’ll find a special section in this issue with facts about street papers worldwide and the work they’re doing. We’re also running some award-winning content from other street papers this month.
Reading over some of last year’s street paper award winners, I was struck not so much by the differences in homelessness here and abroad as I was by the similarities. In the award-wining international vendor profile we’ve decided to run, Andrea Hoschek muses about depending on the kindness of strangers and service organizations and ponders the odd and often luxurious items people throw away—these sentiments are universal, though the details might seem foreign. When Andrea was sleeping rough in Austria, it was on a bed of discarded fur coats—easier to find than a secondhand sleeping bag. Ryan Gallagher’s article “Storm About the Shelters” details the Dickensian squalor of some of the hostels and bed and breakfasts that the U.K. uses to house its homeless. While the idea of a homeless “bed and breakfast” seems strange in Colorado, the underlying circumstances—shortage of affordable housing, government strapped for resources—are all too familiar.
I’ve enjoyed reading the responses to the readership survey we ran last month. If you took the survey, thank you. Your input helps us grow. I’ve also been having lots of conversations with vendors to find out what they like about the paper, and what they would like to see more of. Over the next few months you might start to see some slight changes in the paper as we begin to implement some new vendor ideas. Speaking of vendors, this month’s featured vendor is David Gordon. David is one of our most charismatic and passionate vendors, and I’m glad we’re able to share his story with you. We’re also featuring the writing of two new vendors in this month’s issue! I’m excited to share their work with you, and hope you enjoy the new voices.