The Slovenia Times

The Kings of the Street



Empowering the homeless The street papers sold by homeless and people living in poverty have become a worldwide phenomenon in the last 15 years. In Slovenia in 2004, a group of students and researchers, mainly from the field of social pedagogy, initiated the project. It began as research about the culture of the homeless in Ljubljana. After spending 24 hours with them, and establishing contacts, the research led to the initiative of creating a street newspaper.. And what better name for it than the Kings of the Street (Kralji ulice)? Finally, in June 2005 the first 2,800 pilot-copies of the "first Slovene newspaper about homelessness and related social issues" came off the presses. The content It would be wrong to expect that the paper was "made by the homeless for the homeless". Although one of the paper's aims is to present the culture of the homeless to other people there is more to the project than this. The paper prints poems and stories from the street, as well as interviews with NGOs such as the Karitas and others. Other contributors are the experts and students that are interested in the issue-area. So do not be surprised to find the paper covering issues such as health risks, theatre workshops and cultural events, such as those taking place in the capital's latest area of "underground" culture - the old Rog factory. The international section offers information about other street newspapers as well as articles about humanitarian projects and life abroad. The final two pages are reserved for fun: jokes, a comic strip and the now almost universally popular Sudoku puzzle. Something for everyone then. Street philosophy So how does the magazine get to the public? Homeless people buy the paper and then sell it on. The main idea is to give homeless vendors an opportunity to earn money in a legal way by selling the newspaper on the streets of the city. The price is relatively low: June's issue, which had a print run of 10,000 copies, cost less than one euro and was 32 pages long. Sale rules Vendors have to adhere to certain rules while selling the paper including: no harassment of the public and keeping off alcohol and drugs. As the paper itself states, such rules are necessary, "In order to maintain the good reputation that has been established" in the last year. Failure to respect this can result in the vendor losing their right to sell the paper. Feedback In the beginning there were 62 vendors, today there are over 100 today. The goal is to publish the magazine monthly, and extend its coverage to other large towns in Slovenia. So far, Maribor and Celje have joined the network. Some buyers already prefer to get it from "their usual vendor", whereas others can even receive it at home, either through the post or by calling Gregor, "an experienced and funny vendor" (as he states in his ad). The project has also produced the 'University Under the Stars' and in February 2006 the Workshop of Creative Writing, both enabling the homeless and their friends to get educated and express their creativity. And they are gaining friends. "I respect you all, although you might not know it yet" was the SMS one reader sent. After considering how difficult it must be to live on the street, always on display, having to listen to many impolite remarks from passers-by, trying to stay sober and trying to sell the paper to as many people as possible, one reader simply commented that "It takes balls". Because the world is good and full of pleasant surprises I gave away everything: money, papers, energy and pride. A new day started: Sunny, cold, calm. The bike needs to be repaired, I am thinking about a new one. I will have to steal a new one... It doesn't matter if the bike squeaks, no matter if I am penniless, without papers, warmth, energy or pride, I know I will get them all back, because I have a soul that is protected by a secret force, friends who love me, a family, although shattered, and because the world is good and full of pleasant surprises. Kavica (Coffee)


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