The Paper on the Street

How street newspapers in cities empower the people who experience homelessness.

In 2011, when Michael Thistle, 60, became homeless after being diagnosed with throat cancer and losing his job, he “spare changed” throughout the five-year ordeal to make ends meet and earn money while he went through treatment. 

By saying he “spare changed,” Thistle uses the local vernacular for selling Boston’s street newspaper, Spare Change.

The street newspaper was started in 1992 by those experiencing homelessness, and now the formerly homeless and other low-income people keep it going. Many of the vendors are often experiencing homelessness. 

As a vendor, Thistle received papers for 50 cents each and sold them for $2 each, plus tips. Most street news vending works like this, charging a base amount to the vendors on which they can easily turn a profit; often the local office gives the vendor a small number of papers to sell for free. In this way, being a street-paper vendor offers a barrier-less path to earn money for the very low income and those experiencing homelessness. Nationwide, 27 street newspapers operate on a similar model.

Learn more at NextCity.