KEN BURNS EFFECT: Filmmaker reflects on The Civil War series, social equality

It’s hard to have a conversation about American history in today’s world without referencing at least one of Ken Burns’ documentaries. From National Parks to Baseball to The Roosevelts to The Civil War (the latter celebrates its 25th anniversary this month with a re-broadcasting of the groundbreaking series), it’s undeniable that Ken Burns has cemented

BON VOYAGE: Vincent Flanagan leaves Homeless Empowerment Project

“Arguing and advocating are something that are part of my being,” begins Vincent Flanagan, outgoing executive director of the Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP). Flanagan, who has held the position since May 2012, announced last month that he would be leaving. The Homeless Empowerment Project is the nonprofit which publishes Spare Change News. Flanagan, soft-spoken but

AIRPORT REFORM: Workers at Logan demand union rights, fair conditions

As of June 17, over 100 airport workers are on strike protesting the working conditions of two of Logan Airport’s biggest contractors, G2 Secure Staff and ReadyJet. Protesters began picketing at East Boston Memorial Park as early as early as 5 a.m., holding a press conference at 7:30 a.m., just steps away from the Logan

LAST WORD: Marc D. Goldfinger

This week’s Last Word features an interview with Marc D. Goldfinger, Spare Change News’ resident writer and poet and the newspaper’s poetry editor for the last ten years. With the help of the poet Lee Varon, Goldfinger is currently putting together a poetry anthology featuring work published in Spare Change News over the years. Writing

LAST WORD: Jerry Harrell

Jerry Harrell is one of Spare Change News’ “old guard.” Alongside Algia Benjamin and James Shearer, he was among the original lineup of vendors who sold the first issue of the newspaper in May 1992. The cover of that issue—a photograph of a man selling catnip for $2 a bag—embodies what the newspaper is all about:

VENDOR VOICES: When I was homeless

For me, the 1980s was a time of creativity, a lot of stress and homelessness. I left Boston after six years and went on to complete my associates’ degree at a suburban Long Island college. Once I got back to New York, I registered with a temporary employment agency and worked in my first full-time

WHAT ARE YOU?: Transgender women face risks in gendered shelters

By Sabrina Caserta Laze Ma coats her eyes with dark liner, adding a few sparkles for fun. She dabs her lips with plum gloss and picks out her favorite dress. Even though she’s been chronically homeless for six years, she’ll do everything in her power not to look it. “I used to wear towels on

MISS CONGENIALITY: Katya's alter ego talks stardom, Olympics

When Boston won the bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Brian McCook’s now famous drag alter ego Katya planned an old-school Russian boycott. “I’m so torn about it,” says McCook, who was in the top five out of 14 performers featured on the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. “While I would love to physically

SEX TRADE: CEASE Boston combats local sex trafficking

A sex trafficker, a pimp, will go to the mall in search of a group of girls. When he finds one, he’ll scan the group to see which girl he perceives has the lowest self-esteem. For this, he’ll rely on analyzing their body language. He won’t go for the conventionally attractive one or the least

HOMEWARD BOUND: Housing chief and adovcates demand more funding

At a Boston City Council budget hearing on May 5, the mayor’s chief of housing and local advocates called for increased funds to the housing budget—albeit in different ways. Councilors first heard from Sheila Dillon, Boston’s chief of housing and director of the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND). Dillon, on behalf of Boston Mayor Marty

YANKOVIC'S GREATEST HITS: Top 10 parody song countdown

From his memorable nerd anthems to his onslaught of food parodies, here are our favorite “Weird” Al singles spanning three decades: 1. Eat It, 1984. Best Line: “Get yourself an egg and beat it.”   2. Like A Surgeon, 1985. Best Line: “It’s a fact … I’m a quack. The disgrace of the AMA.”  

JIMMY TINGLE: Local comedian is no joke

Jimmy Tingle, much beloved comedian, is a like a favorite son in Cambridge. He has enjoyed a large local and national following for several decades. In fact, he grew up and continues to live in Cambridge. He has long been interested in issues of social justice and is known for his humorous political commentary. Remember 60

CONTORTIONIST'S NIGHTMARE: Author Joe Putignano recounts his heart-breaking journey

PHOTO BY SCOTT MARRS Joe Putignano, a 38-year-old native of Brockton, Raynham and Bridgewater, is a former competitive gymnast who began the sport at the age of nine. He trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and later competed in the Junior Olympic National Championships at age 16. He performed in a long-running

EDITOR’S NOTE: God shots

Looking back at the issues I’ve produced as the editor-in-chief of Spare Change News, I’m surprised by the nuggets of wisdom hidden within the profiles of our vendors and other homeless men and women featured in the pages of our bi-weekly newspaper. I call them “God shots”—those moments of clarity that leap from the page

NO FAIRY TALE: MassMouth’s executive director says there is hope to end homelessness

Norah Dooley, the accomplished storyteller, author and executive director of MassMouth, has entertained us with her intricate and heartwarming tales for 28 years now. In addition, Dooley has worked as a passionate social activist, bringing awareness and support to Boston’s large homeless community. Even to a career storyteller, she acknowledges that homelessness is anything but

EDITOR'S NOTE: After the Storm

A few days after “snowmageddon,” Cambridge’s Harvard Square is slowly getting back to normal. Jon Denning, one of Spare Change News’ younger vendors, greets me as I pass his usual spot in front of Qdoba. He’s smiling. “Man, it’s not so bad tonight,” he says, alluding to the below-zero temperatures he’s endured for the past

CARD CHARITY: Eighth grader offers help to the homeless

Joanna Munson-Palomba, like most Boston commuters, notices panhandlers on the streets daily. She has a round-trip commute of three hours, which takes her through Harvard Square. Five days a week, she takes the Red Line to Downtown Crossing and the Orange Line to Jamaica Plain. She wants to make a difference for some of Boston’s

EXCLUSIVE: Boston’s Long Island slotted for Olympic shooting range

The Boston 2024 Olympic committee hopes to use Long Island for an Olympic shooting event, should Boston win its bid to host the Summer Games. The event would feature a 57-acre venue that could seat 7,000 spectators. The proposed idea and many other Olympic plans were revealed when Boston 2024 made its bid documents publicly

GIMME SHELTER: Mayor Walsh unveils Southampton Street shelter

Three months after the Long Island bridge was closed, the city has a new location for a long-term shelter. Located at 112 Southampton St. in the South End, the new facility operates in what used to be a sign store for the transportation department. The two-floor building is not fully finished or operational yet, but

More Than Just the Bridge: Long Island Clients and Allies Speak Out for Housing, Rehab and Improved Services

On October 8, the Long Island bridge—the only access route to Boston’s largest shelter (450 beds), roughly half the city’s detox beds, and a total of 15 programs, including recovery, transitional, and re-entry services—was closed down with only a four-hour notice. Cleve Rae, 58, who had only been homeless for a few days, remembers being

BPD’s Race Problem: In the Wake of Ferguson, Local Activists Are Targeting Alleged Abuses at the Boston Police Department

Citizens, community leaders and activists gathered outside the Boston Police Station at 1 Schroeder Pl. on Thursday, 9 October 2014 to rally against racially biased policing. The event came one day after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts released a new report that found racial bias in police-civilian street encounters, and nearly two

Waste Not, Want Not: Food Recovery Grows Out of Massachusetts’ Waste Ban

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that America generated 36 million tons of food waste and 96 percent of that food went directly to landfills or incinerators. In the same year, the EPA also reported that 14.9 percent of homes in the US did not know where their next meal would come from. Instead

Infrastructure Inequality: The Battle to Fix the Long Island Bridge

Outside of Woods-Mullen Shelter, just down the street from Boston Medical Center, sits a large, cage-like structure. A fence runs down the middle, creating two chain-link hallways. On a windy Boston afternoon, people in hoodies, sweatpants, ball caps and shades gather there, some huddled together, others standing and talking or smoking, many clinging to the

What Is Massachusetts’ Future? Activists Push Governor Patrick to Define His Climate Legacy

Last month, 350 Massachusetts, a statewide affiliate of the international environmental justice organization, announced that they were going to co-sponsor an environmental forum with gubernatorial candidates at Faneuil Hall. When the day came, volunteers from all over the Commonwealth gathered near Quincy Market. Erica Sunders from Worcester was one of them. “I’ve been concerned

Shackled at Birth: Massachusetts’ Mistreatment of Pregnant Prisoners

A month after Governor Patrick signed a 90-day ban prohibiting the practice of shackling pregnant inmates in jails and prisons, the Massachusetts House and Senate have moved forward in passing S.2012, the Anti-Shackling bill. It still awaited the governor’s approval and signature as of press time. Corrections officials are already banned from shackling pregnant inmates

Evicted with Six Months to Live

On Thanksgiving Day weekend, Fanchon Fetters came home from the hospital, having been just diagnosed with breast cancer. She found a warning on her bed for missing a meeting with her case manager, Verna Johnson. On December 18, she received a notice of termination from the program that provided her with housing at Heading Home,

No Place Like Home: Housing for LGBTQ Homeless Youth

There’s a book called “Youth in Crisis: What Everyone Should Know About Growing Up Gay” edited by Mitchell Gold, that contains a series of interviews with young people. There is a story in there that is heartbreaking: The Trevor Project, an American nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and

Trayvon Martin and America's Justice Gap

ROXBURY, Mass.—Less than 24 hours after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, hundreds of Boston residents rallied in Dudley Square to seek justice for the slain teen. As mothers wrapped their arms around their sons, youth held makeshift signs, and men wore hoodies, they chanted in unison: “The people united will never be

We’ll be back soon

We’re currently migrating our website, but hope to have it back up and running normally soon. Thank you for your patience. You may contact Spare Change News’ editor in chief Adam Sennott at editor at

State Officials Take on Family Homelessness

With nearly 4,500 homeless families throughout the Commonwealth, officials are taking action to amend the system and help them find housing and shelter. At the moment, a bill is making its way through the State House that would ease access to emergency shelters and childcare vouchers. One of the biggest changes that the bill would

Seattle declares homelessness an emergency

Seattle became the latest city to declare homelessness an emergency this week. Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced they were declaring the emergencies Tuesday, November 2, Murry’s office said in a press release. Seattle City Council members Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and John Okamoto also helped outline new investments aimed at

Elected Officials Declare Homelessness an Emergency

First it was Los Angeles, then it was Portland, and now it’s the state of Hawaii. All three places have declared a state of emergency to address homelessness. On September 22nd, the Los Angeles city council declared a state of emergency to address homelessness. The city council appropriated $100 million to fund initiatives such as

VOICES FROM THE STREETS: Opioids for pain: the best idea

It astounds me how much controversy exists about prescribing opiates for pain. The fact is that opium-based prescriptions are by far the best painkillers around. When pharmaceutical companies make opiates, they make regulated doses. There are no surprise overdoses, unless the patient takes more than is prescribed. Does this happen? Well, human nature being what

One Year Later: Rally remember the Long Island bridge closure

One year after the Long Island bridge’s sudden closure on October 8th 2014, the homeless, the recovering and their advocates spent a morning rallying to raise awareness and demand mores services from the city and the state. Long Island was home to the city’s largest shelter, detox center and a number of addiction recovery services.

LAST WORD: Fred Boykin

For the first 30 years of his life, Fred Boykin lived securely in the same Dorchester house owned by his mother. His mother was the treasurer of Emmanuel Holy Christian Church in Roxbury and was a strict parent who always made sure Fred came home for dinner at the same time. He remembers her voice

DAN RATHER: On the decline of investigative journalism

After more than 60 years in journalism, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather still believes that a free and independent press is the “red beating heart of freedom and democracy.” But news organizations aren’t living up to that standard, he says. Nor are they working hard enough to “give voice to the voiceless.” Currently anchoring


It has been one year since the Long Island shelter debacle. For those of you who don’t remember, the shelter was hastily shut down after it was discovered that the bridge—which was used to carry the homeless to the island on buses—was deemed unsafe by the state and was condemned. So why am I calling