'Street Sights' sends up a distress flare

A vital voice
By PHILIP EIL  |  June 5, 2013

DEDICATED Kapelewski and Harter.

It could be a bake sale. Or a yard sale. Or a Kickstarter campaign. Or a Mario Hilario story on Channel 10. Or an hour-long show on Rhode Island Public Access to raise awareness. Or a car wash.

"I'm not wearing a bikini, let's just get that straight." someone says.

It's Saturday afternoon at the George Hunt H.E.L.P. Center in downtown Providence and, today, the drop-in depot where local homeless folks can usually pick up shirts, shoes, and mini-bottles of soap and shampoo is dark. In the adjacent room, though, the staff of Street Sights is sitting around a conference table, brainstorming ways for the paper to survive.

Since its March 2007 debut Street Sights — a free, monthly forum offering "accurate and honest information about issues relating to homelessness" — has always run on a tight budget, production manager/creative writing editor Stan Kapelewski says. ("When I first started editing I was homeless and put myself through transitional housing, which finally led me to a nice two-bedroom apartment of my own," his bio on the paper's website reads.)

But the staff usually finds ways to crank out issues that announce meal times at local shelters and churches; include articles like "Unnoted Death in Sober House, Questions Unanswered" and "Rotating Shelter System, Gears Up for Cold Weather"; and, in March 2013, feature wall-to-wall coverage in memory of homeless advocate John Joyce.

But the paper's finances have never been quite this dire.

"How much money do we have now?" asks Barbara Kalil, a formerly homeless staff writer who wrote May's cover story on a big band concert benefitting the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project.

"I'm not exactly sure. I've got to wait until Monday to find out again," Kapelewski says. Last time he checked, they needed abut $300 more to pay for the full run of 2500 copies. He has already pushed production of the issue back a week, but he doesn't want to axe it, entirely.

Neither does Bill Harter, a staff writer who wrote filed five articles and a poem called "Watch Your Step!" for the May issue.

"Some of these people have subscribed," he says. "If we cut out an issue or two this year because we haven't got the money, what are they doing to think next year when it comes time to subscribe again?"

The meeting pushes on and Kapelewski passes out "PLEASE HELP US!!!" flyers to be distributed around town. Later, Harter suggests soliciting ads from local politicos.

"Politicians are always looking to get their name in something-or-other," he says.

The crew is about halfway through their meeting when staff photographer Jordan Montgomery walks through the door. He just spent 11 hours at the free dental clinic at CCRI, he says. He first arrived at 4:45 am.

He went to the clinic to take pictures for the paper, of course, but also to see a dentist himself.

"I thought I had to have some teeth pulled," he tells the group, "but they said, 'Keep 'em as long as you can.' " He left with a new filling for one tooth and a warning that he'll eventually need a crown. But, right now, he says, he doesn't have the extra $700 or $800 that will cost.

"If you had that," Kalil says, "You could donate it to Street Sights."

To learn more about Street Sights, go to streetsights.org.

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