The paper has not typically run advertisements, but Borotz said the staff is evaluating how much to charge and is considering bringing on a college marketing intern to help establish policies. Eventually, Borotz said the staff wants to offer additional news on its website, wordonthestreetbaltimore.org.

Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said that among the newspapers' value is the awareness it creates for the public on matters related to homelessness.

"If we are to end homelessness, it will begin by an honest conversation that involves unhoused people," Donovan said. "We really need to be about homeless people speaking in a first person's voice."

In a time when traditional newspapers are struggling, Donovan said street papers are an economically viable method of communicating with people who are homeless and cash-strapped. Buying and selling the paper also involves a hand-to-hand exchange, which Donovan said is an intimate act that builds an understanding between individuals.

Sean Condon, co-chairman of the North American Street Newspaper Association, said the model for street papers varies. Some papers pay their writers, who sometimes include laid-off journalists from traditional newspapers, he said.

Condon is executive director of the Vancouver-based newspaper Megaphone, one of eight street papers in Canada. Across the world, there are 110 street newspapers in 40 countries. The quality of the street papers continues to improve since the first of their kind, Street News, was started in New York City in 1989.

"It's a movement that keeps growing right away," Condon said. "It's an interesting phenomenon. As more people learn the potential for street papers to change people's lives, the more people who get into it."

The largest street paper is the Big Issue in London with 100,000 copies sold each week. Nashville's paper, the Contributor, is the largest in North America with a monthly circulation of 120,000. A newer addition, Washington's Street Sense, was created in 2003 and prints 30,000 copies a month.

Street newspapers also have their own wire service that provides shared content.

Condon said the street papers empower those struggling with poverty and homelessness, and help them become self-sufficient.

"There is often a misconception of the inability of people to produce and the will of people to contribute something," Condon said. "There is a great desire to get involved in all segments of society. For a lot of people, the street paper becomes that opportunity."

ywenger@baltsun.com

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