Sunday, April 21, 2024

A message is projected onto a wall at Occupy Boston’s Camp Dewey late Thursday. (photo: mpeake)

With an eviction notice hanging for Occupy Boston’s Camp Dewey and the future of the movement in flux, here’s a suggestion for a way forward that could benefit literally everyone:

Take the energy that was going into The Boston Occupier newspaper (at one point called or expected to be The Occupy Boston Globe) and put it instead into Spare Change, the 19-year-old paper by and benefiting the homeless that is published by the Homeless Empowerment Project and run out of Harvard Square church offices.

Spare Change has some good content but is limited by the limited amount of interest people have in reading about the homeless. It could benefit by expanding its mission, both by being more practical (meaning directly useful to people beyond the homeless) and more urgent (meaning having news in it that matters directly to people beyond the homeless). That means being more about economic injustice in a practical and widely appealing way, which would bring more sales and possibly more advertising. The good news is that economic justice is a popular theme these days; the bad news is that the wider focus requires more expertise.

And the good news again is that this expertise is likely found among the energetic and idealistic people of Occupy Boston, which could use a print organ to speak more directly with people who don’t live online and get related tweets and video in real time. (And Occupy certainly wants to benefit the homeless, including those made homeless through the very specific kinds of economic injustice that have exploded over the past few years: debt, foreclosure, pension “reform,” market turbulence and so on.)

The content from Occupy websites can go into Spare Change, and the writers among Occupy can write directly for it on a variety of topics.

The final element to this, and another way to make Spare Change and Occupy practical and even more popular, is to make some of that content about cheap living in Boston. If anyone has advice about where to get the best, least expensive meals, goods and services throughout the area, it’s probably the homeless.

You could wind up with a Spare Change that’s one-sixth practical, buy-it-cheap news you can use; half Occupy content; and the remaining third homeless-specific content. That sounds more readable and more salable, meaning more profitable for the homeless Spare Change vendors who could badly use the money, than the current mix of 100 percent homeless-related content.

Then the unique human infrastructure of Spare Change can go to work. The paper has what no one else in Boston has now, not even the Metro (for which workers hand out papers silently and robotically): hawkers. People who already interact with passers-by to induce them to buy but can and should expand that to yell out what’s in an issue of Spare Change and draw attention to it. But they shouldn’t just be calling out, “Get your Spare Change here” or even “Get your Spare Change here, help the homeless”; they should be calling out the top, practical, urgent topics in that issue: “Get your Spare Change here! Mayors, FBI and Homeland Security may be conspiring against Occupy Wall Street!” (and “Five best breakfasts below $5! In this issue!”)

Theoretically, Spare Change and Occupy Boston have something no one’s had access to in quite a long time: town criers.

Occupy movements should be doing this everywhere there’s a paper for the homeless, if they’re not already.

The downside is that Occupy and the homeless could be inextricably jumbled in people’s minds, and that could work to the detriment of Occupy, given the perception of homelessness in the minds of the mass public — but that perception is itself an issue Spare Change and Occupy needs to address, since the economic-justice truth is that these days (and, really, always the case) anyone can be homeless, and more families and children are.

Even if its physical presence at Camp Dewey and Harvard Yard ends, Occupy can continue evolving into a political force, and a common media can be a way to do that.