Outpouring of public support to help Megaphone “change the story on homelessness”

A street paper in Vancouver has vowed to produce an in-depth investigation into ending homelessness, after smashing its fundraising goal for the project in just 36 hours.

In an incredible show of support, 125 generous backers helped Megaphone meet their initial target of $10,000 last week.

Megaphone launched its Let’s Change the Story on Homelessness campaign on its website on 11 May. It was accompanied by the video below, which features Megaphone vendors explaining that homelessness is unacceptable, preventable – and sucks.

The funding will be used to hire a reporter to deliver an investigative series examining the root cause and possible solutions to the homelessness crisis in British Columbia (B.C.). It promises to add another dimension to Megaphone’s award-winning coverage of the issue.

With $12,580 raised in seven days, and further donations still coming in, the Canadian paper’s first-ever crowdfunding campaign hasn’t just struck gold – it’s struck a chord with the local community.

Jessica Hannon, Megaphone’s Operations Manager, believes solutions-based journalism is severely lacking in B.C. – and that reporters need to go beyond the surface issues surrounding homelessness.

“It’s not that homelessness is ignored in the media in our province of British Columbia. It’s that the coverage of the crisis gets doesn’t get us any closer to addressing the crisis and saving lives. In an age of newsroom cuts and real-time news cycles, the stories we hear on homelessness are reactionary,” she said.

The decision to launch a detailed investigation into the crisis was inspired by the shocking statistics revealed in Megaphone’s recent report Still Dying on the Streets. The study, released by the paper in March, found that homeless deaths had spiked by 70% in the last reported year across B.C. As many as 150,000 people are homeless in the province.

Digging deeper to determine root causes and possible solutions is of paramount importance to Megaphone, as more than 80% of its vendors have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness.

Jessica also believes that positioning Megaphone as the go-to source for quality journalism on the homelessness crisis in B.C. will also increase its vendors’ sales.

“We always want to keep the focus on the vendors, and the issues that affect their lives. We call this new venture ‘solutions-focussed journalism’ because it is journalism with a goal in mind,” Jessica added.

“We are not neutral observers, but instead see journalism as a tool to change the public dialogue on homelessness and to bring solutions to the fore.”

Being part of a global network of street papers which provides a voice to people in homelessness and poverty is another key motivator behind the project.

“We’ve also seen the impact that our INSP colleagues have had through high-quality advocacy journalism, and have been inspired by their work,” said Jessica.

Faced with overwhelming support, the paper decided on 18 May to up its target to attempt to raise $16,000 by 1 June. The additional funding will be used to produce short, sharable videos to accompany the content created through the homelessness series.

Jessica added that the outpouring of support for the project highlights a strong public desire to find lasting solutions to the homeless crisis.

“I never doubted there is public support in B.C. for people experiencing poverty and homelessness, but I know too that people often feel powerless in the face of the suffering that exists here,” Jessica said.

“This project will create impactful journalism that drives change, and it is all possible because of the huge heart of the amazing community behind Megaphone. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who has donated to the campaign. We are blown away by the generosity of our supporters.”