By Sarah Ford
Colorado Springs street newspaper The Springs Echo is back two years after founder Raven Canon was found dead and publication of the street paper ceased.
The Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission (PPJPC) is stepping in to manage production of the paper, run the program, and pay for printing costs starting with 1,000 issues printed in late May. Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission volunteer Bill Thomas and board president Debbie Vitulli will act as co-editors for the paper. Thomas credits Vitulli for the Echo’s return.
“As co-chair of PPJPC, I knew that we were fiscal sponsors of a grant that the previous Springs Echo team had worked hard to obtain. I had not heard anything about the paper at our board meetings for some time,” Vitulli said. “Bringing this paper under our umbrella of community partnerships just seemed to fit perfectly with our mission.”
Canon, whose given name was Crystal Tippens, launched the Echo in January 2017 and publication ran for four months with Canon acting as head editor and lead writer for the eight-page publication. However, Canon, who was also homeless, was found dead on the streets on a cold morning in March 2017.
While supporters, including the PPJPC, tried to keep the paper in publication after Canon’s death, efforts fizzled.
Canon is remembered by friends as a powerful organizer and activist who was on the rise in Colorado Springs.
“I got tired of being hunted like an animal at night. I was tired of being treated the way we get treated,” Canon told the VOICE about her inspiration to start the paper in a February 2017 article.
Thomas and Vitulli say they see the paper’s resurrection as a way to continue Canon’s legacy by amplifying the voices of people experiencing homelessness and challenging local government and service providers.
“There is such a large gap of understanding and empathy between those experiencing homelessness and those that are housed,” said Vitulli. “They have feelings, desires, dreams, hurts, sadness, and even happiness, just like those who are better off economically. There will be a chance to publish their writing, their art, and other possibilities yet still to discover.”
The masthead in future editions will also honor Canon with an image of a broken-hearted Raven.
With its return, the Echo re-joins the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), of which the Denver VOICE is also a member. Canon’s idea to start the paper initially came from her time vending street paper Real Change in Portland, and the name The Echo was inspired by the VOICE.
“I was just being a smart ass and I said ‘Well, if they’re the Denver VOICE, does that make us the Colorado Springs Echo?’” Canon told the VOICE, “and the name kind of stuck.”
Content will largely feature writing, opinion pieces, and art by people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs as well as a resource list of local shelters, food service, medical care, and other needs. The first issue focused on the approach to homelessness taken by Colorado Springs officials and generated a good amount of attention according to Thomas and Vitulli.
So far, 20 people have signed up to vend the Echo. Local businesses including Poor Richard’s, owned by City Council President Richard Skorman, The Perk Downtown, and Rocky Top Resources have also signed up to purchase and distribute copies of the paper.
Both say they are also actively seeking additional contributors, writers, and artists to participate in editorial content for the paper. They encourage anyone interested to email them at email@example.com.
“This, I hope, will bridge the gap of a closer understanding between [the homelessness and the housed] and help solve this devastating issue of homelessness,” said Vitulli. “I believe we can start healing a broken system with education, even if it starts with just one paper, one person at a time.” ■