By Lucy Gordon
Fresh from roundtable discussion, the street paper delegates brought day three to a close with a series of pre-booked presentations of films and special projects by INSP members.
The showcase allowed a number of the delegates to present the different projects, visions and passions at the heart of their paper.
Big Issue UK’s John Bird kicked off the proceedings. He maintained that there is division within poverty itself in the UK. Whilst the Big Issue deals with some of the most broken and desperate individuals, the UK is home to some of the most expensive poor in the world who go through various local authorities throughout their lifetime costing the UK economy millions, he said: “when you get a situation where the poor cost more than the upper and middle classes you are in an enormous crisis”.
In an increasingly digital world Bird recognised that an alternative to “street existence” needs to be established. Working with new technologies and giving the vendors an opportunity to train up in skills such as editing and reporting may be a move in the right direction.
“Whenever there are homeless people there has to be something given to them that doesn’t take something from them”.
Tenidola Awoyemi from the Freedom Foundation Nigeria spoke about their programme of rehabilitation for vulnerable groups and how street papers can be used to allow individuals to change their own lives. Awoyemi presented a video consisting of two case studies following the lives of two drug addicts undergoing a rehabilitation programme in Nigeria’s most prosperous city of Lagos.
One of the former addicts “Sunday” spoke of being hooked to all ways of taking drugs, doing anything he could to get his fix and confessed to having “lost his dignity”. The emotional film followed him through assisted detoxification, watched him reunite with his estranged mother and develop a passion for reading and writing, he exclaimed “I’m having a life again!” The Freedom Foundation is an example of the power of intervention in turning around the lives of vulnerable people.
Rose Henry form Victoria Street Newz, Canada, gave an inspirational account of her involvement with the social network Homeless Nation. The network provides recording equipment allowing many to showcase their stories and in addition encourages them to write on the website and blog which generates an estimated 10,000 hits a week. Homeless Nation shows how homelessness organisations can utilize new media and stay current in an ever changing society.
These are just a few of the projects which are taking place throughout the INSP. A number interesting themes emerged from the delegates accounts but the general consensus is that street papers by and large have the ability to force change and empower the homeless to shape their own future.