Traverse City News and Events

Stories From The Street

By Beth Milligan | Sept. 11, 2017

The brutal assault of several homeless people sleeping behind a church in downtown Traverse City last July proved to Peggy Byland that perhaps the people who live on the street need better P.R.

That summer, Speak Up, the small magazine (or ’zine) focused on and written by homeless individuals that launched in Traverse City in 2014, had just stopped publication in northern Michigan. As Patrick Sullivan writes in this week's Northern Express - sister publication of The Ticker - Byland, a retired elementary school English teacher, recognized that something needed to take its place.

“When we had that incident a year ago, with some of our people that were assaulted behind Central church — I think that was the catalyst for [understanding that] we have to let people know that we’re not dirt bags that people can kick or punch. We’re people. We have rights,” Byland says. “They want people to know that they’re human, and all humans need to be treated with respect and dignity and given the opportunity to be themselves.”

Byland, who is not homeless, and a group of people who were homeless, formed TC Street Voices. They published the first 100 percent local issue last fall. Next month, the publication will celebrate its first anniversary, providing income to homeless individuals who sell the magazine as well as giving them a voice in the community.

TC Street Voices’ editorial vision is to be more literary mag than newspaper, but it nonetheless reflects current events in the homeless community. When Michael Conway was struck and killed by a driver on Division Street one night last October, his death shocked the homeless community. It also started a conversation about pedestrian safety in Traverse City and prompted someone to donate reflective vests, which were handed out at the Jubilee House, the Washington Street resource center operated by Grace Episcopal Church. The effort prompted a feature in the Street Voices February issue that included a series of photos of homeless individuals wearing the vests, showing solidarity with Conway, and symbolizing the importance of pedestrian safety.

This October, Byland says the first anniversary issue will focus on Safe Harbor, a wintertime homeless shelter that will open this November in its new permanent location on Wellington Street after years of fund-raising and political debate. Now that Street Voices is up and running and appears to be viable, Byland says the group applied for nonprofit status in August.

Each issue — typically 20 pages made up of five 8 ½-by-14-inch pieces of paper folded in half and stapled — costs $2. Vendors pay $.50 per issue, enabling them to earn at least $1.50 for each copy sold. Often, people pay well over $2 per issue. Ad revenue covers losses from the cost of printing because the paper costs more than 50 cents per copy to print. There are around a dozen vendors, but that fluctuates with the seasons. Byland says some vendors have done really well.

“Our vendors, they really depend on the income,” she says. “I am amazed at how dependent they really are.”

Read more about Street Voices in this week's Northern Express story, "Stories From the Street." The Northern Express is available online, or pick up a free copy at one of nearly 700 spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.

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