Street Talk stops talking

By Amy Badry

Street Talk, a local street paper that raised awareness about issues of poverty and homelessness, published its last paper this month.

For the past 15 years, Street Talk was sold around the city by vendors experiencing poverty and homelessness. Selling the paper gave vendors a way to supplement their income while enhancing skill sets and self esteem.

“It gives me a change to interact with people, meet new people, be my own boss and a chance to write,” said Robert Champion, a Street Talk vendor.

The paper was funded and published by the Calgary Urban Projects Society, a non-profit organization that addresses the root causes of poverty.

With CUPS no longer able to fund Street Talk, other agencies around the city were approached to see if they would take over, but none were interested.

“It is plain harder to sell a newspaper in this day and age,” said Ken Price, editor of Street Talk. “We have way less vendors than we used to so it is just not helping as many people.”

“I have regular customers and a sense of community surrounding me here,” said vendor “Saint Pete” who came to Calgary in 1995 and has been selling Street Talk on 17th Ave. since the paper began.

Not entirely sure what his next step will be once Street Talk is gone, Saint Pete hopes to find something else to sell.

“CUPS has several other initiatives to help people out,” explained Price, who said he is personally meeting with vendors to help them with the transition.

One of those new program is the Craft Cooperative, which helps the poor by teaching them skills to make crafts and start their own businesses. From there, they can sell their goods at the farmers market and other locations around the city.

“I’m nullified about the whole thing, I don’t know what to think,” said Champion. “I don’t know what I will do next. See what comes along, that’s all you can do.”

Champion enjoyed talking to his customers and getting to know the other vendors.

“The whole idea of the paper was a stepping stone … but there is not much of a community left here.”

Many customers are also saddened that Street Talk has published its last issue.

Sarah Cicchine, a Street Talk reader and one of Champion’s regular customers, said she learned a lot about what was happening in the community.

“It is sad the paper is ending because it is people’s livelihood,” Cicchine said. “It is like they are up a creek with no paddle,”

Cicchine felt the paper was important to the community and a good way to identify with the people writing articles and stories in the paper.

Street Talk is one of the very few means where someone can just approach someone on the street and learn more about their life,” said Price. “Once Street Talk is gone, that avenue is going to be gone.”

“I hope something comes up were those bridges can be built again,” said Price.

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