A new newspaper, Springs Echo, will be distributed downtown by vendors you may already be accustomed to seeing on street corners asking for spare change.
Casey Lister, 24, is one of them. He moved to Colorado Springs this year after, as he puts it, "a series of unfortunate events," including the theft of his truck, left him homeless in Houston. Lister has a few buddies here, so he's been couch surfing with them while looking for a more steady job. Right now, he's making a little money performing sporadic mechanic work and "flying a sign" (street slang for panhandling).
"People treat you differently when they see you on the sidewalk, like snobby," he tells the Independent.
That's why he's excited to become one of the Echo's first vendors — it'll be an opportunity to share stories by and about local homeless people directly with a public that seems to sometimes prefer sweeping them out of sight. The monthly paper will launch Jan. 1.
"I hope [the Echo] can change some people's minds," Lister says. "So they can actually see that things aren't going too good for some people out here, and a lot of times it's not their fault. This'll be a way for them to witness that firsthand."
Lister will pick up his first bundle of papers to distribute for donation from the Echo's founding publisher, Raven, who goes solely by her street name. Some may remember Raven as an organizing force behind the ephemeral tent city that sprang up in Springs Rescue Mission's parking lot this fall.
At the time, the Indy reported that hopes for self-regulation at the encampment were dashed when the city compelled the property owner to evict the unhoused tenants.
Raven says she's been cooking up the concept for the Echo for about a year. She took her inspiration from a brief stint vending for Seattle's equivalent paper, Real Change. A founder of that well-established street paper offered Raven advice on how to launch something similar in Colorado Springs.
For her, the impetus is two-fold: the Echo will empower homeless people to take charge of their own narrative and generate modest but dignified income for vendors.
"I'm thinking this could really be transformative for us," Raven says.
On Dec. 18, a snowy Sunday, the team behind the paper (which includes a contingent from Seeds Community Café, the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission and the Coalition for Compassion and Action) gathered outside the 7-Eleven on Tejon Street, a popular homeless hangout, to raise funds for their first print run. They offered photos with Santa, Mrs. Claus and several elves to passersby — some of whom were clearly scared of big, bearded Edwin "FedEx" Aldrich in his cobbled-together Santa outfit. However, plenty were brave enough to stop, listen to the group's pitch and spare some change.
Still, the team is short of its $403 goal so members are collecting donations via an online fundraiser posted to "The Springs Echo" Facebook page. Orientation for vendors will be held at the Marian House on Dec. 30 at 10:30 a.m. The next writers' workshop for potential contributors will be held at "The House of Misfits," at 2330 E. Platte Ave., on Jan. 7 at 1 p.m.