Three Years On, The Edge Tries to Stay Sharp


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Volunteers retain their anonymity while reading copy for the Edge in 2013. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Volunteers retain their anonymity while reading copy for the Edge in 2013.
Humboldt County's only newspaper exclusively focused on coverage from and about the region's homeless is still plugging along, three years after its debut in October 2013. Some things have changed ― such as the original staff and funding sources. Some big plans have not come to pass, like the street vendor program originally scheduled to begin in 2016. But The Humboldt Edge continues to print stories from people whose voices otherwise might not be heard – people on “the edge” of poverty and homelessness.

In the Edge’s September/October issue, a volunteer interviewed Stacy Cobine, who was part of the lawsuit against the city after the eviction of the Palco Marsh. Cobine, a dollmaker, spoke candidly about addiction, health problems and her attempts to stabilize as she bounced from the marsh to the Multiple Assistance Center to a rented room. An Edge volunteer who goes only by “Blu,” a disabled woman who regularly visits the camps to talk to people and encourages them to share their stories, conducted the interview.

“We are so grateful for her going out there and getting stories,” says Katrina Martin, the Edge’s editor. “She’s the first volunteer we’ve had that actually goes out and interviews people.”

The Edge’s all-volunteer team also regularly tries to recruit contributors by handing out papers and pens.
“We encourage people to write,” says Dave Rosso, who regularly contributes to the paper although he is himself housed. “We tell them we will transcribe for them.”

But despite their best efforts and consistently offering places to meet and drop off submissions in three different Northern Humboldt cities, the paper has lately run thin on content written by homeless people. Instead it features interviews transcribed by volunteers and articles written by homeless advocates. The November/December issue features two articles by members of Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, Rosso’s memories of being a homeless 20-year-old in Munich, Germany and a thorough list of resources. It also has several poems written by people struggling with housing insecurity, and original art.

“It saddens my heart to see my fellow human beings treated like nothing,” reads one poem, by Megan Bauer. “They don’t know that not two months ago I was the one flying that sign for food and shelter.”

Many contributors participate in a writing group at the Multiple Assistance Center. But the challenge for Edge volunteers is, well, finding more volunteers.

“It’s hard to find one of us to recruit volunteers,” says Martin, gesturing to the five-person team that gathered for their most recent advisory board meeting at the Arcata House, adding that they had discussed bringing in social work students from Humboldt State University. Lack of volunteers has reduced the distribution of the paper and stalled efforts to create a vendor program.

“We even received a grant for a vendor program but we had a vendor coordinator who didn’t realize the time commitment and had to bow out,” says Martin. “We still have some funds from the grant to pay a small stipend to the vendor coordinator. We would like to move forward.”

The advisory board says its goals include getting the paper into the hands of policy makers and local officials, to educate the “haves” about the “have nots.”

The Edge originally had a small grant to jumpstart its efforts but it now scrapes by with donations and advertisements from local businesses. Although resources are tight, somehow it still manages to scrape together enough money to print 5,000 copies every two months.

“I am the one who does the bookkeeping and I am always amazed that we have donations,” says Martin. “You have a little faith in the universe, and things happen.”


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