[Hpn] FW: Congratulations Street Spirit....

coh coh@sfo.com
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 19:25:11 -0700

From: Lynda Carson <Lyndacarson@excite.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 00:32:59 -0800 (PST)
To: IndyBay@egroups.org, ynpn-members@igc.topica.com,
GreenPartyOfAlamedaCounty@egroups.com, poormag@sirius.com, poder@igc.org,
jeff@videoactivism.org, imc@media-alliance.org, evictaction@egroups.com,
KPFAKellia@aol.com, imc-sf@lists.indymedia.org, DBernstein@igc.org
Subject: Congratulations Street Spirit....

    To Terry Messman of Street Spirit wherever you are.Thanks for
being there these last 5 years to give a voice to the poor.
     Your beautiful....    Thanks for being there.....     LC

Article last updated:
Thursday, December 21, 2000  2:49 AM MST 
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Street Spirit marks 5 years of covering homeless beat

TERRY MESSMAN had started his 48-hour production stint.

"I scan the photos, lay out the stories, write the headlines, the whole
thing," Messman said. He also edits stories and writes articles. When Street
Spirit, Oakland's homeless newspaper, started five years ago, Messman was
told there would be an editorial team. Now he laughs at the memory.

"I've always been it. But I don't mind. I love having the creative control,"
Messman said. 

The monthly paper, published by the American Friends Service Committee, is
celebrating its fifth anniversary. Messman didn't think it would last this
long. In fact after the first issue, he wondered if there were enough
stories about homeless activism to fill another paper.

"It's been astounding how many dedicated people there are doing such good
work," said Messman, who ran AFSC's homeless organizing program before
editing the paper. "All the artists, homeless people and activists who are
fighting the powers that be and refusing to accept that people have to be
this poor in such a rich country. It's given me hope that we are not such a
morally bankrupt people."

There is so much material, the paper has grown from eight pages to 20. The
writers donate their work and have broken several major stories. A yearlong
series on Richmond's East Bay Hospital for psychiatric patients uncovered a
history of abuse and neglect; the hospital eventually closed. A moving story
about Doug Ferrari, a comedian who had succumbed to mental illness, resulted
in a reunion with his comedian friends. Sadly, the author, Trent Hayward,
later died on the streets himself.

The paper has covered the fight for a Just Cause Eviction law in Oakland and
revealed a secret study by the mayor's office analyzing the cost of
eliminating transitional housing and homeless services from downtown

Street Spirit includes artwork and poetry, illustrating the creativity and
humanity of the people we too often don't see as we pass on the street.

The paper also covers homeless issues in other California cities, including
San Diego, Santa Monica and Santa Cruz. As an indication of how serious the
homeless problem is, there are 40 street papers across the country. There is
even an association of them -- the North American Street Newspaper
Association. San Francisco's Street Sheet, which started publishing in the
late 80s, is one of the first and a model for Oakland's Street Spirit.

Messman said they are the only two that don't charge the vendors for the
paper; Street Spirit has 125 homeless vendors who sell about 25,000 papers
each month. Messman also declines to accept advertising, believing
advertisers would try to control the content.

He thinks one of the biggest underreported stories in the mainstream media
is the attack on the civil rights of the homeless.

"You have a ton of laws criminalizing the things homeless people need to do
to survive. It's a crime to lay your head down or cover yourself with a
blanket. Anti-sleeping and camping laws require people to expose themselves
to the elements and become ill," he said. "There is a massive wave of
repression and police attacks on the poor and homeless."

Messman said the average California city provides only 10 percent to 20
percent of the shelter beds needed. For example, San Francisco reports it
has 12,000 to 14,000 homeless people and provides fewer than 2,000 shelter

"In an inhumane lottery, 10,000 people won't find shelter any given night,"
Messman said. "Still the city officials unleash the police in repressive
raids and sweeps on those people. It's an act of public inhumanity."

And the consequences are deadly. Messman said last year, 169 homeless people
died on the streets in San Francisco; for the last eight years, more than
100 homeless people have died in San Francisco each year.

"What's really discouraging is we have liberal city officials in the Bay
Area running the crackdown. It's racism, prejudice against sick people,
sexism. Bigotry is creeping back into our legal structure," Messman said.

While the rest of society pretends the problem of homelessness doesn't
exist, Street Spirit keeps the issue in the public eye.

"The paper is telling people there is a dangerous climate of repression
aimed at the poor. And it is sold to commuters and shoppers. People are
fighting back," Messman said.


Brenda Payton's column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.


 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers

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