Street Spirit

By Marcus McAlpin

Photo by Marcus McAlpin
Photo by Marcus McAlpin

Kenneth Winters started writing for Street Spirit around ten years ago. While at the Whole Foods on Telegraph Avenue, Winters noticed a man selling a newspaper to people as they walked by. Inquiring further, he discovered that this was the Street Spirit, a publication of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Street Spirit is committed to sharing issues from everything pertaining to low-income psychiatric patients, to the homeless, the displaced, and the youth living on the street. More than one hundred homeless men and women are involved in the Street Spirit. This form of a job gives them a much more enlightening opportunity to make money, rather than just to panhandle, or just gives some people more financial stability between paychecks from other jobs. Winters started selling Street Spirits at Whole Foods, but then moved to Berkeley Bowl, and then to the now-nonexistent Reel Video store. His current position is usually right outside of Pegasus Books on Shattuck Avenue. Honor was a reoccurring theme in the conversation I had with Winters. For the men and women who sell these papers, it is a truly honorable trade in which they require a legitimate badge to let the police and other officials know this is a serious, legal business. In its early days of existence, the Street Spirit was very hard to keep running due to massive prejudices and stigmas placed on homeless people. Having homeless men and women coming into an office building to hold meetings regarding the Street Spirit quickly became an issue in the early days, about twenty years ago. But the original team of vendors and the AFSC members fought and struggled to make sure the paper would continue to thrive. These stereotypes are hopefully being diminished due to the dialogue and interactions the Street Spirit creates. Every time an issue is sold, there is an interaction between the homeless and the public. That’s another reason it is so important for people to make sure they take an issue if they intend to give the vendor money. By refusing the paper but giving them money, you are disqualifying their job as nonexistent or unimportant, when in reality it is essential to spreading the word about social injustices from a perspective missed by most common people. But even with such a positive message being put forth into the world, evil lurks. Winters told me he was deliberately tripped one day, right in front of Pegasus Books, and he broke his wrist. But do you know what his reply to this was? “The Lord will average everything out.”

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