Sunday, December 13, 2009

St. Petersburg Homeless Image street newspaper debuts

If you traveled downtown at all this weekend, you may have spotted folks hawking an unfamiliar newspaper.

The St. Petersburg Homeless Image -- a forum for advocates, homeless and formerly homeless people, students and the general public -- made its debut this weekend on the streets of St. Pete. The paper includes articles on the homeless lawsuit against the city, St. Pete's designation as "Second Meanest City," a blistering attack on the St. Petersburg Times for their recent article against panhandling and passionate obits on recent street people who died.

The paper is the brainchild of G.W. Rolle, a formerly homeless man who serves on the county's Homeless Leadership Network. The project grew out of a need to provide accurate, passionate news and opinions to the people of St. Pete during an unusually hostile atmosphere toward the homeless. Plus, through a generous vendor program, the paper provides an economic opportunity to the city's homeless. They can sell the paper for a profit and, besides getting some extra cash, learn valuable job skills. Rolle told me it's a good alternative to panhandling.

The idea is nothing new. In 19 cities throughout the United States and Canada, "street newspapers" have proven effective in giving homeless people a "hand-up" instead of a "hand-out." Street newspapers even have a national umbrella organization backing them.

If you pick up a copy -- and you should -- you'll find a few articles written by myself and some homeless advocates across the county. The design and editing needs a little work, but the St. Petersburg Image is a good example of the kind of alternative journalism we need in St. Pete.


At December 15, 2009 1:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The people that write that the city is so mean to the homeless obviously is not a business owner in the downtown district. Walk a mile in their shoes bleeding heart dont know the whole story as usual unimformed writers. Do you honestly think you can help the guy on the front page? Take a good look at him. Does he look like he wants to be saved? The maddog character has been homeless for over 20 years how do you explain that? Oh wait a minute jobs were scarce right? Silly me. If you dont give these people cigarettes or change they swear at you and call you racist names. I've even seen that other character Ted Lennox spit at someone for not giving him money. How dare you try and make people feel sorry for people like that. All they want are drugs and money. I know about the people whose landlord didn't pay the mortgage so they're out on the street but I'm talking about the ones that want to make a career out of panhandling. You dont own a business downtown so you have no idea what goes on. That newspaper you're trying to peddle is garbage. Help the people that really want the help and get rid of the rest. Next time why dont you ask the business owners instead of the people making a living out of swindling people whats its like to have those people bothering customers for food and anything else they can get their hands on.

At December 15, 2009 1:47 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

The uninformed writer (Alex Pickett) has covered the St. Petersburg homeless situation for years. One can hardly call Alex uninformed. Alex knows the story inside and out.

At December 19, 2009 12:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Alex Pickett has covered the homeless situation for years then why didn't he talk to the downtown business owners? Would you want someone coming into your business that hasn't bathed in god knows how long to use your bathroom while you had customers sitting down to eat? There are alot of people that don't want to come downtown because they get harrassed all the time. People are free to do what they want with their money and shouldn't have to be cussed out for not giving some homeless guy money to go drink and buy drugs. Last night the sidewalk kids started a fight with some people at the Independant because they wouldnt give them any money for food. Oh yea,why do homeless people have pets? That Ted Lennox guy was swearing at some lady with kids because he needed a dollar. What about those guys? It happens all the time downtown. People like him have been homeless for so long that they don't care anymore what they say to people or what they do.

At March 20, 2010 10:43 AM , Anonymous Alex said...

First, thanks for reading Anon. You're obviously passionate about the homeless and I love to engage those who are passionate.

Second, you make a fair point about talking to business owners. I have done that in past stories and maybe should of added that perspective to this issue (and hopefully will in upcoming issues).

However, I think you're missing the real point of the paper. The business owners already have a voice: it's called the St. Petersburg Times, Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, etc. The whole point of the Homeless Image is to give a voice to those without such a powerful voice, i.e. the homeless. So, while your criticism is valid, it's not warranted in this situation.

Third, you are correct -- many homeless claim they do not want help. Now, I'm not going to debate on a blog whether that is a sane statement or not (really, who WANTS to be homeless? That would have to be some mental illness, right?). But yes, the most visible homeless are those who are chronically on the street and seemingly hopeless. But if we could change those lives around, wouldn't that be the hardest part of solving the problem? Something to think about.

Fourth, it's important to know that the Homeless Image is around to put some shiny, happy face on homelessness. The paper's editor has said numerous times that he wants to portray homelessness in all its forms, even bad. That's why that letter about the homeless guy going to jail was included. It didn't make the homeless look good, but he felt it was important to add it.

Fifth, about the kids at the Independent. Those are not homeless kids. They are gutter punks. Big difference. I can school you later on that.

Finally, about panhandling. I could go on and on about how not every panhandler is buying drugs with their money or how I don't think people should give money to those who they are not comfortable with anyway. I'll just leave with this: grow a thicker skin. You live in a metropolitan area. There are homeless, panhandlers, poor people. If you don't like it, maybe you should move to the suburbs. Oh, wait ... they are there too. Isn't this recession great!?!

At March 20, 2010 10:45 AM , Anonymous alex said...

oh sorry. i meant under fourth to say the homeless image is NOT around to put some happy, shiny face on homelessness. sorry! where's my copy editor? Oh yeah, he got laid off.

At March 20, 2010 2:31 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

Gutter punks kids are (usually) Hot Topic fashion victims with serious drug and alcohol addictions.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home