The Death of the Street Newspaper
NEOCH has not published the local street paper since last August/September 2009. We haven't said much about it for the last year. NEOCH has struggled to stay alive in the worst economy in the last 40 years. It is a rough time for most non-profits, and we had to significantly downsize. We just have not been able to afford to publish the paper for the last year.
While the newspaper in Cincinnati and Columbus are doing well, we just could not keep our paper going and the worst is that we were first in the state. Cleveland just does not have the pedestrian population that it once had to buy papers on a regular basis. We could not attract enough quality vendors who would stick with the program. We could not convince groups like Downtown Cleveland Development to help out the paper to outfit vendors as alternatives to panhandlers. Imagine uniformed vendors on the same corner as a panhandler. How long is a panhandler begging for money going to be able to compete against a nicely dressed vendor with a product? We could not find support to pay for the staff of the paper. The street newspaper was an idea outside the traditional funding box, and no one seemed to get the empowerment possibilities of this micro-enterprise project.
Finally, we were not willing to end our commitment to not censoring the population or changing content to be filled with happy news. I always described the paper as 15 pages of depression for $1.25. We could have done feel good stories and profiles, but that would not be honest to the population. Homelessness is tough and hard and full of depression, anger and resentment. There is very little happiness except after a family has found housing. Many other papers supplement their content with non-homeless information to keep people from dying of depression while reading. As a homeless organization, we stuck to our mission and the content was hard to digest. We also allowed the homeless writers to say anything that they wanted even if it was critical of the shelters, government, or even NEOCH.
Anyway, a group of poets--Ben, Stephen, and others are working on raising enough money to pay for one issue for the holidays. We will probably have to change the name of the paper, and start fresh. After the paper stopped publishing some people started using old copies to panhandle. The paper's name has been sullied. We need another $1,200 to get a paper together for the holidays. We do have plans to try to link the paper to a local training programs for the future after the economy stabilizes.
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