Streetvibes Celebrates the 200th Edition: 1997-2011

Streetvibes celebrates its 200th edition (graphic)
by Susan Lakes

The city’s panhandling debate is partly responsible for the advent of Streetvibes. Now, 200 editions later, Streetvibes continues to offer its Distributors a dignified way to make a living as entrepreneurs. Trained Distributors purchase Streetvibes from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless for a quarter, and collect a dollar donation for each paper.

Modeled after Cleveland’s street paper, Streetvibes started out with a print run of 500 and grew six-fold.

The same win-win-win principles guide the publication today. It’s a win for the general public since the paper delves deep into issues that impact common ordinary people. It’s a win for those marginalized and underrepresented because it allows a forum for self expression, and it’s a win for the Homeless Coalition
Production changed throughout the paper’s 15 year life.

At first, the staff of volunteers quickly, composed, typed, cut, waxed and pasted the stories and art to meet print deadlines. Nowadays, a staff editor directs story creation and computers transmit the stories to the print shop. But one thing remains constant: Distributors anxiously await each edition. It’s there to distribute, and distribute they do. They distribute a version of the printed word that keeps people in touch with what’s REALLY going on since the news is generated at the grassroots level.

“It comes from the ground up, not the top down,” said Bonnie Neumeier, a longtime Over-The Rhine resident and activist. Neumeier was glad to see Streetvibes. It filled a void left by the ending of a previous local publication and organizing tool called Voices, which ceased publication a few years before the beginning of Streetvibes.

In the early days, Streetvibes content was not only in print, but on cable access television and radio, a combination one of the founders, Pat Clifford, fondly refers to as the great media empire. There was even a group of musicians, the Streevibes band that provided introductory music for the television show.

A Former Director Looks Back…

Donald Whitehead published a book, received a Governor’s appointment to a drug policy committee and headed up a national level organization for homeless awareness. Although the former Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless (GCCH) director now lives and works miles away on the east coast, he hasn’t forgotten his beginnings.

“My heart will always be in Cincinnati,” Whitehead, a Cincinnati native, said from Baltimore in a recent phone interview.

Streetvibes is one way he keeps in touch with The Queen City. “It’s amazing to see how far the paper has come from the early days,” he said.

The publication helps change the lives of people experiencing homelessness, and elevates the public’s level of understanding of homeless issues said the formerly homeless Whitehead.

Whitehead now serves in a direct service position for an organization called Beans and Bread. Before that, he served as the Director of the National Coalition for Homelessness after moving from management and director positions at Goodwill and the local homeless coalition.

At GCCH, Whitehead started as a volunteer, moved to an outreach position within a year and later to Executive Director. He served in that role for two years.

Check out a copy of the print version to see a timeline of Streetvibes stories and accomplishments.