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Spare Change News (SCN) is a street newspaper founded in 1992 in Boston, Massachusetts for the Greater Boston Area and published out of the editorial offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts through the efforts of the Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP), a grassroots organization created to help end homelessness.

Spare Change News
Spare Change News frontpage, 14 September 2006.jpg
The September 14, 2006 – September 27, 2006 cover page of Spare Change News
TypeBiweekly newspaper
Owner(s)Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Founder(s)Tim Harris, James Shearer, Tim Hobson, Bahati Ptah, and others
EditorAlejandro Ramirez (2016-)
Adam Sennott (October 2015-2016)
Sam Baltrusis (December 2014-October 2015)
Joshua Eaton (June 2013-December 2014)
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou (August 2012-June 2013) [1]
Tom Benner (July 2011–August 2012) [2]
Adam Sennott (2010-2011)
David J. Jefferson (2008-2010)
Samuel J. Scott (2004-2007) [3]
FoundedMay 8, 1992
Headquarters1151 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
 United States
Circulation10,000 per issue

The Homeless Empowerment Project is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with an annual budget in 2012 of $130,000 and six staff members, all part-time.[4]

The newspaper offices are headquartered in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church.


Mission statementsEdit

The mission of Spare Change News is "to present, by our own example, that homeless and economically disadvantaged people, with the proper resources, empowerment, opportunity, and encouragement are capable of creating change for ourselves in society." [5]

The mission of the Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP) is "to empower the economically disadvantaged in Greater Boston through self-employment, skill development, and self-expression. To create forums, including those of independent media in order to reshape public perception of poverty and homelessness." [5]


Cover page of the premiere issue of Spare Change News, May 8, 1992 (cover photo by David P. Henry [6])

Since the founding of Spare Change News, the price of the newspaper has varied. Originally it was sold for $1 and the vendor paid 25 cents for a copy making a profit of 75 cents on each paper sold. As of September 2016, a vendor pays 50 cents for each copy of the paper, then sells it on the streets for $2. As a result, the vendor makes a $1.50 profit for each newspaper sold.[7]

There are approximately 100 active vendors in the greater Boston area at any one time.

The biweekly, 16-page paper contains a color front and back page, alternative news, arts features, interviews, fiction and poetry that are written by staff writers and journalists, as well as by people who are homeless or work with the homeless. A full page is devoted to listings of local centers for job/skills training, senior care, women's care, drug recovery programs and homeless shelters.

Circulation is roughly 10,000 per issue. HEP/SCN rely on grants and donations to publish the newspaper, but the organization works to increase its advertising revenue to become self-sufficient.


The paper was started in Boston in 1992 and was the brainchild of Tim Hobson, who enlisted the aid of twelve other homeless people [8][9] and one housed advocate, Timothy Harris, who was a member and Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.[10][11] In 1994, Harris would go on to use the model of Spare Change News and the Homeless Empowerment Project to found Real Change, a street newspaper in Seattle. Harris was later quoted as saying about street newspapers like Spare Change News and Real Change and creative artistic expression:

"When people think of helping the poor and homeless, they usually think of food and shelter," Harris said. "Those things are necessary, but it's more than that. It's the spiritual. The homeless need to express themselves and be a part of the community. It's important that they have human dignity".

— Tim Harris, one of the founders of Spare Change News, [12]

The first issue of Spare Change News was published on Friday, May 8, 1992.

The newspaper's first managing editor, Tim Hobson, said at its founding that it would be "heavy on politics as well as discussion of homeless empowerment". He also said an important goal was to "put a face on the homeless to show that we're human beings".[5][13]

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, together with his friend, the historian Howard Zinn, were some of the first major supporters of Spare Change News.[14]

In June 1993, one of the founders, James L. Shearer, appeared before the Boston City Council to accept a special commendation on behalf of Spare Change as the newspaper celebrated its one-year anniversary.[15]

In July 2002, Spare Change News and the Homeless Empowerment Project hosted the Seventh Annual Conference of the North American Street Newspaper Association.

In May 2004, Spare Change News hired journalist Samuel Scott, who was a Boston University graduate as well as former Boston Courant reporter and Boston Globe editorial assistant, to be its first professional editor.[16] He changed the tone of the paper from advocacy journalism to objective reporting on social issues and revamped it from a black-and-white broadsheet into a color tabloid. He was later executive director of the Homeless Empowerment Project.[3]

In November 2007, Boston's South End street newspaper Whats Up Magazine disbanded and merged into Spare Change News under the umbrella of the Homeless Empowerment Project.[9] On February 28, 2008, Whats Up published their first 4-page insert inside Spare Change News.

In 2008, Spare Change News received a grant from The Harbus Foundation of Harvard University Business School, to use it "to support a long-term marketing strategy to increase the awareness of the organization amongst the general public and generate broader distribution and commensurate aid for its vendors."[17]

In October 2010, a Worcester, Massachusetts edition of Spare Change News was launched.[18] It is a collaboration of Spare Change News and the Worcester Homeless Action Committee.

In July 2011, Tom Benner, a veteran journalist and former head of the Massachusetts State House bureau for The Patriot Ledger newspaper, joined as the new editor-in-chief.[2]

In June 2012, Vincent Flanagan, Esq., was appointed Executive Director of the Homeless Empowerment Project/Spare Change News. Mr. Flanagan was previously Development Director for Legal Affairs for Give Us Your Poor, and served in various senior level and managerial positions during his 25-year career with the federal judiciary, such as Circuit Executive for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, Massachusetts.[19]

In August 2012, the Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a Pentecostal (Church of God in Christ) Christian minister, community organizer, and activist who studied religion at Harvard University and Union Theological Seminary in New York, joined Spare Change News as Editor-in-Chief.[1] Reverend Sekou was interviewed by Callie Crossley on WGBH Radio in Boston on August 29, 2012 about the mission and future of the newspaper.[20]

In August 2015, Ms. Katherine Bennett was hired as Executive Director of HEP/SCN replacing Vincent Flanagan who had been on board for several years and had moved with his family out of state. Bennett, who is from the South Shore of Greater Boston, was involved in many homeless advocacy projects and was a journalist.[21][22]

20th anniversary celebrationEdit

On June 21, 2012, Spare Change News celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Harvard Room at the Inn at Harvard in Cambridge. In attendance was Cambridge City Councilor Marjorie C. Decker, and the keynote speech was delivered by Massachusetts State Representative, Byron Rushing. One of the founders, Tim Harris, wrote a note to the gathering congratulating the organization for its tenure and especially thanking co-founder, writer, and Board President James Shearer, for his sticking with the organization since its inception and keeping it alive. Musical entertainment was provided by Building Bridges Through Music, and the Follow Hymn Interfaith Choir of Lynn, Massachusetts, with Doreen Murray as featured vocalist. Poetry readings were given by Book of Hope featuring Jordan Tyler Young and Aminata Keita. There was also an exhibit called "The Homeless are not Faceless".

Hub Resource GuideEdit

In August, 2011, HEP/SCN launched the publication of The Hub Resource Guide, a pocket-sized handbook of resources and services in and around Boston. It is similar in concept to The Rose City Resource published by Street Roots in Portland, Oregon.

Selected interviews and articlesEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Sennott, Adam, "New Editor Named at Spare Change News" Archived 2013-01-01 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, August 24, 2012
  2. ^ a b Murray, Megan, "Cambridge's Spare Change News gets new editor : Tom Benner", Cambridge Chronicle, Jun 30, 2011
  3. ^ a b "Off the Shelf with Doug Holder: Interview with Samuel J. Scott, Spare Change News Editor", The Somerville Times, Somerville, Massachusetts, July 23, 2005.
  4. ^ Spare Change News press release, June 26, 2012
  5. ^ a b c "Who We Are" Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine – Spare Change News website
  6. ^ David Henry
  7. ^ Shearer, James, "VOICES FROM THE STREET: Change is Good", Spare Change News, September 28, 2016
  8. ^ Zauzner, Julie M., "Making Change", The Harvard Crimson Thursday, February 03, 2011
  9. ^ a b Bayles, Cara, "Street Sheets: Whats Up Magazine finds a new home"[permanent dead link], Weekly Dig, Boston, February 27, 2008.
  10. ^ Mathieu, Paula "The Early Years of Spare Change News: Insights From Its Founding Organizer" Archived 2013-02-23 at, Spare Change News, June 15, 2012. Recollections of founding organizer, Tim Harris, and other people involved early on.
  11. ^ "Advocate Timothy Harris making a career of empowering the homeless", The Boston Globe, May 30, 1993.
  12. ^ Steele, Kim, "Homeless People Speak Out in the Arts", news, Columbia, Maryland, December 10, 1996
  13. ^ Walker, Adrian, "Spare Change for sale Boston's homeless planning a new tabloid to push their message", The Boston Globe, April 6, 1992.
  14. ^ a b Kershner, Seth, "Noam Chomsky: The Spare Change News Interview" Archived 2012-05-24 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, May 19, 2012
  15. ^ Power, Stephen, "Homeless newspaper finds its place in Hub", The Boston Globe, June 24, 1993.
  16. ^ Kennedy, Dan, "DON'T QUOTE ME: The Big Story" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, The Boston Phoenix, May 21–27, 2004
  17. ^ Yip, Heidi, "Philanthropy In Our Hands: $60,000 Worth of Harbus Foundation Grants Awarded to NPOs", The Harbus, Harvard University Business School, April 28, 2008. (archived 2008)
  18. ^ Daly, Katie, "'Spare Change' coming to Worcester, Mass.", NECN TV Network, Aug 18, 2010
  19. ^ Sennott, Adam, "New Leader Appointed at Homeless Empowerment Project/Spare Change News" Archived 2013-03-01 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, June 1, 2012 issue.
  20. ^ "Callie Crossley Interview with Reverend Osegyefo Sekou on Spare Change News" Archived 2012-10-16 at the Wayback Machine, Boston Public Radio program, WGBH Radio, August 19, 2012
  21. ^ "Homeless Empowerment Project Welcomes New Executive Director", press release, August 2015.
  22. ^ Greenwell, Liam, "Flanagan Leaves Homeless Empowerment Project", Spare Change News, August 10, 2015
  23. ^ "Ken Burns Effect: Filmmaker takes the Civil War series social equality", Spare Change News
  24. ^ Olsen, Danielle, "Speaking Her Mind: Actress Sophia Bush Talks to SCN about Women’s Rights, the Environment, and Urban Outfitters" Archived 2011-06-28 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Friday, April 4, 2011
  25. ^ a b Jefferson, David James, "Spare Change Honors the Legacy of Howard Zinn" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News. Wednesday, February 10, 2010
  26. ^ Sennott, Adam, "Exclusive Interview with New York Times Columnist Gail Collins" Archived 2011-11-26 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
  27. ^ Simpson, Michael; Mulkern, Noreen, "Former Presidential Candidate Michael Dukakis Spares Time For Spare Change" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Wednesday, August 18, 2010
  28. ^ Greenough, Jason, "Dear Albania: Eliza Dushku discusses Immigration, Bernie Sanders, and Homelessness", Spare Change News, February 25, 2016
  29. ^ Benner, Tom, "SCN Interview with Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser" Archived 2011-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Friday, August 26, 2011
  30. ^ Sekou, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru, "Danny Glover: Artist & Activist", Spare Change News, September 20, 2012
  31. ^ "Murphy's Law: Dropkick Murphys Matt Kelly", Spare Change News
  32. ^ Sennott, Adam, "Making The Jump: Carl Lewis talks to SCN about life beyond nine Olympic gold medals and his role as an FAO Goodwill Ambassador" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Friday, December 24, 2010
  33. ^ "Mike McColgan: Founding member of the Dropkick Murphys talks veteran homelessness", Spare Change News
  34. ^ "McGorry on Murder: Actor Matt McGorry discusses feminism, Boston, and performing", Spare Change News
  35. ^ Olsen, Danielle, "Exclusive interview with feminist writer Kate Millett" Archived 2011-11-26 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Monday, March 7, 2011
  36. ^ Benner, Tom, "An exclusive interview with Lt. Gov. Tim Murray on the state's new Housing First policy" Archived 2011-09-10 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Tuesday, August 16, 2011
  37. ^ "Amanda Palmer: From Harvard Square Busker to International Phenom", Spare Change News
  38. ^ Kohn, Zachary, "Patrick Speaks About Homelessness and Job Growth in the Commonwealth" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, Wednesday, October 13, 2010
  39. ^ "Cornel West: A Voice in the Wilderness" Archived 2013-01-09 at the Wayback Machine, Spare Change News, September 7, 2012
  40. ^ "Weird Al OPens Up", Spare Change News

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit