‘Street Views’ paper tells stories by and for unhoused Angelenos

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The first issue of Street Views includes first-person essays by unhoused Angelenos, original reporting, and practical how-to guides for people experiencing homelessness. Photo courtesy of Shea Backes.

For the nearly 70,000 people living outside or in shelters in LA County, accessing the news isn’t always easy. And some unhoused folks feel the stories they do read about homelessness don’t fully reflect their experiences.

That’s why a group of community organizers, encampment residents, and UCLA graduate students recently teamed up to launch Street Views, a new newspaper created by and for LA’s unhoused communities. 

The idea for the paper was developed after students began working with residents of an encampment on Aetna Street in Van Nuys. Residents expressed interest in developing a project that would help them build community, while creating better information infrastructure for people experiencing homelessness. 

“We wanted to do something that highlighted the solidarity and resilience that is already happening in these unhoused communities and give it a larger platform that would allow encampments across LA County to connect,” organizer Shea Backes tells KCRW.  

The resulting newspaper includes original reporting, practical guides for people navigating homelessness, and first-person accounts from encampment residents. Dwight Singleton, a former resident of the Aetna encampment, says he feels like these personal takes are often missing from the media’s coverage of homelessness. 

“Usually when people … have not been homeless, they don’t really have the knowledge to speak about what it’s like to be unhoused,” he says. 

Singleton contributed a piece about how getting an ID for the first time made it easier for him to access services, as well as a series of drawings.

Street views aims to make practical information and news about current events available to those who might not have access to technology or transportation. Photo courtesy of Street Views.

Other pieces featured in the first issue include a how-to for making a sleeping platform on wheels, and a deep dive into the experiences of individuals who have been brought into Mayor Bass’ signature Inside Safe initiative. 

Backes says the piece highlights some of the concerns around the program’s bumpy rollout, including those voiced by members of the Inside Starving coalition, who say they were not provided with some of the wraparound services promised by the mayor. 

“It's neither an endorsement nor a scathing takedown of this program — it's about what are the practical facts that people who are facing the choice to go into Inside Safe or not are going to need to have in order to make those personal decisions for themselves,” says Backes.

Mutual aid groups are distributing copies of the paper citywide. 

“By disseminating the newspapers, giving them to people who already have ties and trust in the community, the hope is that it passes like word of mouth, gets to the people it needs to get to, and they get it on to the next people,” says Backes. 

The group is currently working on printing more copies of the first issue, and gearing up for the second one, notes Backes. Those interested in submitting can reach out to streetviewsnews@gmail.com