Papers for the Homeless: From Denver to Sydney

Street papers were invisible to me until I noticed homeless people in the Denver area selling the Voice. I began to investigate and found that papers written for—and also by—the homeless had sprouted up all over the world. I found one in San Francisco in 2015. I’d heard about the Big Issue and made a point of getting at least one while I was in England in the spring of 2014.

And while I was on a tour of Sydney in September 2015, I saw a vendor in Hyde Park. While he was giving me change, I said, “I thought the Big Issue was a British paper,” and he responded in a stern voice, “It’s a paper for the WORLD!”

In the parts of the world we’re visiting this fall, however, Australia is the only country with a street paper—according to the Denver Voice, that is. If New Zealand has one, I missed it. And we’re not going to Taiwan, Korea, or Japan quite yet.

Street Papers 2

I have to say that homelessness seems to work the same way in the United States, England, and Australia, all English-speaking countries. James Kite, an artist I found drawing on Pitt Street in Sydney, used to work in retail and then lost his job and his residence. His explanation, below, states in part: “I was left with two options, either try and go on the dole or survive as best I could by way of the streets. In 2010 I made my decision and turned to the streets. spending time in Devonshire tunnel … and have not looked back.”

James Kite on Pitt Street in Sydney Sept 2015 2

On the day I saw him, he had attracted quite the crowd.

James Kite on Pitt Street in Sydney Sept 2015 1

This detail from the right-hand drawing shows why.

James Kite on Pitt Street in Sydney Sept 2015 3

Here’s a picture of a man named Nick in Brighton, England, who had the same idea.

Nick at Brighton Pavement Art 4, April 2014

I see these street papers as a form of restoration—of people’s lives rather than the environment. As you have probably noticed by now, I define restoration broadly.

James Kite on Pitt Street in Sydney Sept 2015 4

May the day come soon when the urban environment no longer forces people onto the streets.

Kite gives away his drawings but accepts donations.