Three people in and out of a van
Street Spirit vendor Marvin Jackson collects a stack of papers from editor Alastair Boone one morning in 2019. Credit: Frances Dinkelspiel

Street Spirit, the newspaper that has carried the perspectives of homeless East Bay residents for nearly three decades while providing a source of income for unhoused vendors who sell its print editions, will publish its final issue for the foreseeable future next week.

Editor-in-Chief Alastair Boone said she learned last month that the board of Youth Spirit Artworks, the Berkeley nonprofit that provides nearly all of Street Spirit’s roughly $150,000 annual budget, was eliminating funding for the newspaper.

Boone hopes the shutdown is temporary and is now raising money to resume publishing, which she said could be possible over the next six months. But she also acknowledged that Street Spirit may shut down for good if no one steps forward.

“Street Spirit could disappear, and that is devastating to me and other people who read the paper and depend on it,” Boone said.

The final issue, a special edition in which Street Spirit collaborated with the San Francisco newspaper Street Sheet and the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust to explore the experiences of people who are Indigenous and homeless, will publish on June 1.

After that, Street Spirit’s more than 40 vendors in Berkeley, Oakland and Fairfax will continue to sell papers provided by Street Sheet, Boone said.

Launched in 1995, and published under the slogan “justice news and homeless blues in the Bay Area,” Street Spirit’s monthly issues have been made up of news articles, commentaries, poetry and graphics about housing and poverty, from contributors who in many cases are or have been unhoused. Vendors, who buy the print editions for 5 cents apiece, sell them for $2 and keep the proceeds.

“It meets people in sometimes the hardest moments of their life and gives them a place to be, and a way to reengage in the community when they have been relegated to the margins,” Boone said.

Boone, a Youth Spirit Artworks employee who will be working without a salary to revive Street Spirit, said the organization’s board decided that publishing the paper was no longer “financially feasible.” The nonprofit has operated Street Spirit since 2017, when it stepped in after the newspaper’s original funder, the American Friends Service Committee, similarly decided it could no longer back it.

Youth Spirit Artworks Director of Operations Karini Pereira-Bowers said the nonprofit, which also operates a tiny house village in East Oakland for unhoused young people, has been cutting its budget following the loss of key grants and the resignation of its executive director in December.

“The organization has struggled to generate funding for Street Spirit all these years,” Pereira-Bowers said.

Anyone who wants to support Street Spirit can make a donation to the newspaper through the San Francisco-based Western Regional Advocacy Project, Boone said. The project accepts contributions online or by mail — though supporters will need to specify that they want their donation to go toward the newspaper by writing “Street Spirit” on their check memo line, or in the field of the online donation form that reads, “If you have a special purpose for your donation, please let us know.” The mailing address is Western Regional Action Project, 2940 16th St., Suite 200-2, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then, he has covered transportation, law enforcement, education and college sports for the San Jose Mercury News, EdSource, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Janesville Gazette and The Daily Cardinal. A graduate of Berkeley High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he now lives in Oakland with his wife and dog.