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Homelessness paper wins 'most improved'

Willa Truelove has roamed the streets for the past two years. She has no home.

But this hasn't stopped Truelove from speaking out on behalf of her community. She is a staff writer for Street Sights, a newspaper that aims to shed light on homelessness in Rhode Island.

This past July, Street Sights won the North American Street Newspaper Association's Most Improved Street Newspaper award.

"Among the homeless, Street Sights is the only voice," Truelove said.

Though the paper was started almost 15 years ago, it has only recently gained recognition.
In just two years, the journal — which started out as a one-page pamphlet with 50 copies — has grown into a 16-page monthly newspaper with 3,000 copies distributed across the state, said Coordinating Editor Elizabeth Ochs '07.5, a staff member for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.

In March 2007, Ochs and four others decided to revive Street Sights when one of the biggest homeless shelters was in the process of closing down and the future of its residents was uncertain.

"You can't make change if people aren't communicating," Ochs said, adding that Street Sights works to make sure "every voice matters, every voice counts."

"This award lets the staff know that their hard work makes a difference," she said. "It's our goal to keep improving."

An award such as this encourages those who help put a paper together, said Andy Freeze, the newspaper association's executive director.

When Adrienne Langlois '10, who interned for Street Sights this past summer as its web editor, heard the paper was nominated for the award, she had no doubts it would win.

"We really are improving," she said, adding that the newspaper now deals with a greater variety of subjects and contains more articles than it used to. 

Langlois first discovered Street Sights when writing an assignment for a journalism class. "It's written by people who care about the subject," she said, noting that some of its staff writers are homeless themselves.

"All of us are working together to make the paper something respected, a valid voice," she said. "We want it to be something that people can go to for a different perspective." 

Langlois also spearheaded one of the paper's new programs, a journalism training workshop in which Street Sights staff writers spoke with several reporters and worked on their editing and interviewing skills. She said the paper's staff hopes to make the workshop an annual event. 

Nicole Parrish '12 created a corporate financial sponsorship packet to draw advertisers to Street Sights. She is also trying to raise enough funds to be able to give current staff writers a stipend for their work for the paper.

"It's an amazing experience," Parrish said. "People put so much effort into it."

According to Creative Writing Editor Stan Kapelewski, who used to be homeless, the paper gives people the chance to "say something they're generally not able to," and creates "a supportive community." Most recently, the paper's staff began holding monthly meetings and discussions for homeless and formerly homeless people.

"Working for Street Sights has enhanced my writing, and it makes me feel good about myself," Kapelewski said. "It's a work from the heart."


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