Spare Change News
Recently after our 20th anniversary celebration there were some comments uttered about how the creation of Spare Change, or rather the way it was created, was a mistake. These comments were made by those who were either crying over spilt milk or were jealous of our success.
Some would say that having homeless people in charge of putting this newspaper together was in fact a mistake. They harken back to our beginnings, and how in our first year we turned on our founding organizer Tim Harris and booted him out of the organization.
Yes, Tim was unfairly treated by some of the founders and kicked off the reservation, and maybe this would have been a sadder story if he had locked himself in a room and drunk himself to death and SCN had gone belly up shortly thereafter. But that didn’t happen, which makes that tired old story just that: Tired and old, and for people to keep rehashing it is not only lame, It insults the intelligence and the hard work of our founding organizer who thought the idea of homeless people running their own organization was a great idea.
Imagine if things went differently. What if Harris himself had listened to the naysayers who thought the very idea of empowerment was absurd? What if he saw co-founder and managing editor Tim Hobson as nothing more than a bum? If that had been the case, then what transpired over the next 20 years wouldn’t have taken place. Would this paper have been more successful? Probably. But it would have been just another charity to throw money at, no substance, no meaning, it would have been a paper without any heart and soul.
Forget about destroying the myths around homelessness. It would have been exploited. There would have been no bridges being built between the haves and have-nots, because homeless people wouldn’t have been allowed to write for the paper. You would have never read anything from Marc, Jacques, or any of the great writers who have written for this paper, and no boys and girls, there would never have been a Tales From The Curb.
Vendors like Greg, Charles and Mike, just to name a few, would not have the success they have now, because this organization would not have allowed them the time it takes to rebuild their lives. Heck, today this paper may have been sold on a newsstand as there is no doubt in my mind that it would be all about the profit, not the cause.
Tim Harris gave us freedom to do as we will. He allowed us to be us, warts and all, and that is the main reason Spare Change is alive and well today. Yes, in the end we turned on him. But we grew from that and I have no doubt he is proud that this paper has continued on. This writer, whose life may have turned out very differently had I not had the opportunity to succeed, owes him a profound thank you. So thank you, Tim.
JAMES SHEARER is a co-founder and board president of Spare Change News.