Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 10, 2014

New magazine gives homeless a voice

TRAVERSE CITY — There's a new publication hot off the press, and it's filled with stories from the streets.

Speak Up magazine will give a voice to an oft-unheard population with content written solely by those who are experiencing poverty and homelessness in Traverse City. The magazine is a product of a nonprofit organization that has a similar publication in Charlotte, N.C.

Traverse City resident Bill Shaw's son runs the magazine in North Carolina, and Shaw is spearheading the effort in the Grand Traverse area.

"I think there's a need in every society for the least empowered to have a voice and to be visible," Shaw said. "I think progressive societies recognize that and they make it happen."

The magazine will do more than give homeless writers a voice. It provides an opportunity for a job, too.

Homeless individuals can work as vendors, buying copies of Speak Up magazine for 40 cents and then selling them to the public for $1. The first 10 copies will be provided to them free to get their business started, Shaw said.

Shaw's goal is for vendors to take ownership of their work and build relationships in the community.

"The idea that we can give the most vulnerable in our communities a job, a voice and a place in society, that's a powerful opportunity for them. And that's what we're trying to do," he said.

There will be a launch party to introduce "Speak Up" to the Traverse City community on July 23 at 7 p.m. in Kirkbride Hall, the restored chapel at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Attendees will learn more about the magazine's mission and hear stories from the homeless in Traverse City. Shaw wants to teach people about the magazine's mission, and he said it's important to garner community support to be successful.

"There's a lot of risk for someone that's encountering homelessness to get out there and make themselves vulnerable to that conversation," he said. "They need to be treated with dignity, and it needs to be communicated that people appreciate that they're working."

The party is free and open to the public. There will be live music and refreshments.


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